This magnificent imperial doucai vase is a striking example of Qing porcelain. It is known as the tianqiuping 天球瓶 or ‘celestial sphere vase’ due to its elegant form and impressive size. ‘The shape and size of the doucai tianqiuping make it one of the hardest forms to master,’ says Liang-Lin Chen, Head of Sale, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Christie’s Asia. ‘It is also one of the most visually powerful pieces I have ever seen, a true testimony to the Qianlong zeitgeist.’
Palace records reveal that this extremely rare tianqiuping was commissioned by the Emperor Qianlong himself in 1738, the third year of his reign. The vase, which has never been seen on the market, was bought by George Hathaway Taber prior to 1925; in 1960, his daughter Mrs. Francis Keally (née Mildred Taber) donated the vase to Philbrook Museum of Art in Oklahoma, which has now brought it to auction in order to benefit the acquisitions endowment.
This magnificent blue and white moonflask — one of the largest examples in existence — is no mere objet d’art. ‘The painting on the moonflask depicts tilling, one of the most important activities in agrarian China,’ explains Liang-Lin Chen.
The choice of subject matter and the date it was made tell us that the Manchu people who conquered China at this time used objects such as these to dispel their reputation as barbarians, positioning themselves instead as legitimate rulers of the country who would take great interest in the welfare of the people. ‘In this way,’ explains Chen, ‘it elevates the status of the moonflask to a symbol of imperial rule.’
‘The uniqueness of this Yayoi Kusama painting lies in the colour combination used,’ explains Marcello Kwan, Vice President of Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art at Christie’s Asia. ‘We normally see combinations of red and black or red and white, but the red and blue here is extremely beautiful.’
Begun in in the mid-1950s when the artist first arrived in New York, Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Net’ paintings have become a central theme throughout her long-running career. Speaking about the series, Kusama has said that the ‘nets’ reflect the visual hallucinations that have plagued her since childhood.
No. F. C. H. was painted in 1960 and is an extremely important piece from that period. It was shown in the celebrated exhibition Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958–1968, which toured three museums across the United States, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Walker Art Center.
This work is an absolute masterpiece from the pivotal year when Zao Wou-Ki truly becomes Zao Wou-Ki. With Neige Danse, the artist draws on the forces of nature to find his abstract style.
Although the dominant colours are black and white, the background is modulated with hues of blue, pink and green which gives the composition a depth and an impression of swirling snow. The painting, which has never been offered at auction before, is both quiet and powerful.
Known for his peripatetic lifestyle, Zhang Daqian moved to São Paulo, Brazil, in 1963. There he began to experiment with ‘splashed colour’ painting, inspired by Western abstract art, which allowed his work to be both spontaneous and detailed.
‘Viewing the Waterfall, which hung in the artist’s California studio, is a prime example of Zhang’s early splashed colour work,’ confirms Ben Kong, International Specialist Head of Chinese Paintings for Christie's Asia. ‘The vividness of the azurite blue is a wonder to behold; it is dark but luminous and showcases his mastery of colour.’
Fu Baoshi revolutionised figure painting by depicting scenes from classical Chinese literature and myths. He became known for the delicate and controlled broken brushstrokes showcased in this painting, which was inspired by a well-known Tang dynasty poem by Jia Dao about a man searching for a recluse in the mountains.
‘This painting was dedicated to Fu Baoshi’s fellow artist and colleague Huang Junbi, and in that respect, it is very special,’ says Kong.