On The Square

The Qianlong Emperor’s Fan to Reminisce the Spring at Hindman

By Anthony Wu, Asian Specialist

Sep 18,2020 | 13:00 EDT

We made it to the autumn season! That means the start of another round of Asian Art sales at both the international and regional level. Despite the ongoing crisis with the global pandemic the Asian Art market has proved to be resilient with strong results throughout the summer months.

On September 24, Hindman in Chicago will be featuring their Chinese and Southeast Asian Works of art auction. This 379 lot sale focuses mostly on objects from China including paintings, porcelain, jade carvings, furniture and scholar art. However, there are also highlights in a vast selection of reference books, Buddhist sculptures from the Himalayan regions, and Indian works of art.

Lot 80, A Rare and Fine Imperial Folding Fan; Estimate $30,000-$50,000

One of the highlights from the Hindman sale is lot 80, a Chinese Imperial folding fan crafted during the Qianlong reign (1736-1795) of the Qing Dynasty. This fan is from the collection of George R. Bruha, director of the University of Club of Chicago and features the collaborative effort of three important artists of the Qianlong court.

Lot 80, Detail: A Rare and Fine Imperial Folding Fan; Estimate $30,000-$50,000

The front face of the fan depicts two elegant birds painted in gold by renowned court artist Qian Weicheng 錢維城 (1720-1772). Favored by the Qianlong Emperor, Qian was most famous for his landscape paintings and images of flora and fauna.

The reverse is inscribed in gold by the scholar-official Liang Shizheng 梁詩正 (1697-1763) with a selection of ten Tang Dynasty verses selected by the Qianlong Emperor to venerate the spring season. The frame is crafted of rare zitan (purple sandalwood) and elegantly inscribed by Ji Yun 紀昀 (1724-1805) on the guard with an Imperial poem. This fan showcases the superior craftsmanship during the Qianlong period and is estimated at $30,000-$50,000.

Lot 227, A Pair of Embroidered Silk Circular Fans; Estimate $10,000-$15,000

Another group of Chinese fans (and the sale’s cover lot) is lot 227 in the Hindman sale. Here, we see a pair of embroidered circular fans dating to the late 19th Century. Estimated at $10,000-$15,000 fans exemplify the delicate needle work of the Imperial court. They each depict pairs of birds including peacocks, mandarin ducks, sparrows and flycatchers, thus symbolizing the union and virtues of marriage. The handles and frames are carefully painted with Chinese archaistic bronze age inscriptions.

The Hindman auction also contains numerous reference books that are essential for scholars and collectors of Chinese art. The most impressive of this grouping is lot 188, a set of twenty albums printed by Zheng Pu 鄭樸 and dated to 1596 of the Ming Dynasty’s Wanli reign (1573-1620).

Lot 188, Bronzes, Bogu tulu kaozheng (Research on Illustrated Record of Ancient Bronzes).1569; Estimate $30,000-$50,000

These albums provide an important imperial record for the types of ancient chinese bronzes from the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. The books once belonged to the important Chinese Art dealer-collectors Qian Chenqun 錢陳群 (1686-1774), Sheng Xuanhuai 盛宣懷 (1844-1916), C. T. Loo 盧芹齋 (1880-1957) and Cheng Bofen 程伯奮 (1911-1988). They were consigned to the auction from a prominent Chicago collection and yield an estimate of $30,000-$50,000.

Chinese jade carvings are also prominent in the Hindman auction. One of the more important objects is lot 10, a celadon jade ‘three rams’ group dating to the Kangxi Period (1662-1722). In addition to the detailed carving, the group has an auspicious meaning since ‘three rams’ in Chinese sounds like the phrase for bringing good luck and prosperity during the Chinese New Year. Also, the animals share a branch of sacred lingzhi fungus, which symbolize longevity. This group is estimated of $10,000-$15,000

Finally in the Hindman sale is lot 162, a Chinese porcelain bowl with a yellow enameled dragon that is also from the Kangxi Period. The design of a fierce dragon chasing the flaming pearl of wisdom was an extremely popular motif during the Qing Dynasty, especially those from the Kangxi reign. This bowl is attractively priced at $8,000-$12,000.

View the full catalog of Hindman’s September 24 sale of Chinese and Southeast Asian Art.

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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.