Historic 17th century items from rulers of Southern China for sale at Bonhams in Hong Kong

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Historic 17th century items from rulers of Southern China for sale at Bonhams in Hong Kong
The screen was commissioned circa 1690 by the governor of Guangdong province, Lord Ren of the Dong clan from Liaoning province in northeast China. Photo: Bonhams.

HONG KONG.- Historically important objects relating to Guangdong province in Southern China will go on sale at Bonhams' 2011 Autumn Auction of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on November 28, 2011 at the Island Shangri-la Hotel. Located in Guangdong province, the economic powerhouse in Southern China, Hong Kong is the ideal place for these important artefacts to be auctioned. First up is the magnificent lacquered eight-leaf screen showing the earliest depiction of Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton), the provincial capital of Guangdong province.

The screen was commissioned circa 1690 by the governor of Guangdong province, Lord Ren of the Dong clan from Liaoning province in northeast China. This appears to be the earliest known screen accurately depicting the major Southern Chinese walled city of Guangzhou, which in a few years would be officially appointed as the principal trading centre in the whole of mainland China.

The screen was until recently in the famous aristocratic collection of Moira, Countess Rossi de Montelera, in Lausanne, Switzerland. It will be exciting to see it return to Southern China, where it will be highly sought after by collectors from the major Guangdong province cities of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Dongguan and of course Guangzhou. Estimate: HK$2,000,000-3,000,000.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Revolution, Bonhams Hong Kong announced that the personal seals from the renowned revolutionary Hu Hanmin (1879-1936) will be offered for sale at the same auction.

After the Wuchang uprising on 10 October, 1911, leading to the collapse of the Qing dynasty, Hu Hanmin was appointed the governor of Guangdong province and chief secretary of the Provisional Government. He worked closely with Sun Yatsen, the architect of the revolution until the latter’s death in 1925, and then became one of the three most powerful figures in the Kuomintang under Chiang Kaishek. However, after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, he increasingly clashed with Chiang, feeling that the generalissimo’s regime was rife with corruption, and had failed to counter Japanese aggression. Hu's political philosophy was that one's individual rights are a function of one's membership in a nation, and that ‘devotion to one’s own family would result in devotion to one’s nation’.

Following the success of the auction of the ‘Q collection of Exquisite Soapstones’ in May 2011, and to coincide with the anniversary of the revolution, the descendants of Hu Hanmin have decided to offer his personal collector of seals.

Julian King, Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Bonhams Hong Kong comments, ”It is a remarkable coincidence to have such an important early screen, commissioned by a 17th century governor of Guangdong, in the same sale as the personal collection of seals from Hu Hanmin, the first governor of Guangdong in the post revolutionary era. We will be delighted to see institutions and collectors from South China coming to reclaim their heritage from overseas collections”.

Highlights of the 31 lots include:

*A tianhuang dragon seal, the personal seal of Pan Shicheng (1804-1873), a famous Guangdong collector during Daoguang to Xianfeng period (1821-1861). A direct impression of this seal is on a famous work of calligraphy by the Yuan dynasty calligrapher Zhang Yu in the Chinese University of Hong Kong Art Museum. Estimate: HK$1,600,000-2,400,000.

*A pair of soapstone seals carved for Hu Hanmin by Qi Baishi (1864-1957), arguably the greatest painter of the 20th century. Estimate: HK$300,000-500,000.

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