Astonishing Asian Results with Anthony Wu

Oct 05,2017 | 10:17 EDT By Anthony Wu

This season’s Asian Art market has gotten off to a great start! September saw an astonishing number of Asian Art pieces offered through Bidsquare with many exceptional results.

It comes as no surprise that the majority of the Asian Art top sellers originate from China, thus showcasing the insatiable demand for top quality artworks from this region. The Chinese items still trending include traditional and 20th Century painting, classical furniture, mark and period porcelain, jade carvings, and bronzes.

Skinner had their Asian Works of Art of auction on September 15th. Their sale featured over 500 lots from China, Japan, the Himalayan Region and India, with solid results across the board. 

Lot 429, Kingfisher Feather Headdress and Four Hairpins, China, 19th Century; Sold for $110,700

Their highest selling item was lot 429, A Kingfisher Feather Headdress and Four Hairpins from the 19th Century. With a conservative estimate of $3,000 - $4,000 USD, it was purchased through Bidsquare for over 35 times the low-end value at an incredible $110,700.  

This type of headdress would have been worn by a high-ranking lady of the Chinese Qing court.  It contains many incredible details such as the gilded filigree phoenixes and large blossoming peony mounted on top of the black cap. All of these elements are decorated with pieces of kingfisher feather, pearl beads, and precious gems. In addition, this lot also included four kingfisher feather hairpins!

Lot 275,  A Nephrite Yellow Jade Covered Vase, from the 19th/20th Century; Sold for $47,970

Another highlight from Skinner was lot 275, A Nephrite Yellow Jade Covered Vase, from the 19th/20th Century. This elegant Chinese vessel sold for $47,970 - many times greater than the low estimate of $10,000 - $12,000.

Not only did this vase feature a pleasant shape, its design also paid homage to Chinese Bronze Age vessels through its use of monster handles and a large taotie monster mask frieze across its body. The rare yellow tone of the material would have further made this vase appealing to collectors. 

Lot 363, Sterling Silver Vanity Set in Box, Japan, Meiji period; Sold for $5,842.50

In Skinner’s Japanese category, lot 363, a Sterling Silver Vanity Set in Box was purchased through Bidsquare for $5,842.50. With an estimate of $3,000 - $5,000 the 27 pieces included in the custom fitted box showcases some of the top silver craftsmanship of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). 

Each piece is decorated with realistic irises and marked ‘Arthur and Bond Yokohama’. Arthur & Bond was one of the most prestigious dealers in European and Japanese artwork during the late 19th Century. They had gallery in both Kobe and London, and their Japanese location catered to the large contingent of Europeans living in Japan during that time. They also employed many local silversmiths to produce decorative artwork, like the present vanity set, for export to Europe. 

Lot 291, A Pair of Fine White Jade Bowls, 18th/Early 19th Century; Sold for $60,480

In Chicago, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers also had an impressive sale of Asian Art. Their Two-Day auction of Asian Works of Art took place on September 25th and September 26th and featured over 800 lots. 

The first day of the sale contained mostly Chinese ceramics, porcelain, textiles and Japanese decorative pieces. The top seller was lot 291, A Pair of White Jade Bowls from the 18th/Early 19th Century. It was one of the feature items in Bidsquare’s preview for this auction ( Two Days of Asian Art at Leslie Hindman! ) and sold for $60,480 against an estimate of $15,000 - $25,000.

Lot 421, A Set of Four Silk Wall Panels from the Late Qing Dynasty; Sold for $45,360

Lot 421, A Set of Four Silk Wall Panels from the Late Qing Dynasty, was another highlight. Each panel contains a large elephant supporting a floral vase, and they would have originally been cushions for a throne chair.

These panels are densely packed with auspicious Chinese symbols including Buddhist lions, bats, and longevity fungus, all on an attractive pink ground. With a conservative estimate of $5,000 - $7,000, they realized a strong price $45,360.

Lot 552, A Parcel Gilt-Bronze Incense Burner, likely 17th century; Sold for $25,200

Day two of the Leslie Hindman sale featured bronzes, paintings and snuff bottles. Sold through Bidsquare was lot 552, A Parcel Gilt-Bronze Incense Burner. The estimate of $3,000 - $5,000 was conservative considering the current prices and popularity of Chinese bronze vessels these days. 

Of archaistic design, the body of the burner contains numerous gilt highlighted mythical beasts hovering above ocean waves. The cast seal on the base reads 雲間胡文明製 ( wunjian huwenmming zhi ) which translates to ‘made by Hu Wenming of Wunjiang’. He is considered one of the most important bronze craftsmen of the late Ming Dynasty, and this bronze vessel bearing his mark sold for $25,200.

Lot 587, A Sino-Tibetan Parcel-Gilt Bronze Figure of Four-Armed Avalokiteshvara; Qianlong period; Sold for $32,760

Despite its small size and loss of gilding, this figure ( lot 587 ) of the Buddhist god of compassion has a great look and provenance tracing it back to 1973. It also features a rare cast mark 大清乾隆年敬造 ( daqing qianlong nianjingzao ) which means ‘respectfully made in the year of the Qianlong reign’ (1736-1795). 

Buddhist sculptures with this mark are extremely important because they were most likely made for the Qianlong Emperor’s private shrine within the Forbidden City. With an attractive estimate of $3,000 - $5,000, the bronze figure sold for $32,760. 

Check back soon to see more exciting Asian Art results!

Anthony Wu is an Asian Art consultant, researcher, writer based in Toronto, Canada. After working eleven years as the Asian Art specialist at two of Canada’s largest regional auctions, he started his own art advising firm where he consults for various auction houses, museums, and private clients in Canada and the USA. He is a certified Chinese Fine Art appraiser with the Appraisers Association of America.