Precious Jades Lead Gianguan Auctions' June 25th Sale

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"Gold is valuable but jade is invaluable," states Kwong Lum, President of Gianguan Auction Gallery in New York City. As a long term investment opportunity, buyers will take to the collection of jade jewelry, jade seals, jade vases, and jade snuff bottles in Gianguan Auctions' sale on Saturday, June 25.

A collection of precious jade jewelry and ceremonial items in hues as varied as the colors of a spring forest lead Gianguan Auctions’ June 25th sale. The color story extends throughout an exceptional collection of Chinese ceramics with glazes of Famille-rose, copper-red, cobalt and celadon. Classic scroll paintings, both muted and bold, by ancient and modern market leaders wrap up the annual summer auction.

Certificates of Gem Identification authenticate the natural color of many of the jade items. Among these is a peapod pendant adorned with a praying mantis to symbolize hard work and good luck. It is Lot 64, valued at $1,500-$2,000. Also independently vetted is the apple-green jadeite pendant depicting an elder scholar under pine tree with fowl. Both are symbols of long life and prosperity. It is Lot 37, valued at $6,000-$15,000. The GIA has authenticated the natural, uncarved jade boulder at Lot 193. Two inches tall and weighing 278 grams, it is set to go off at $1,000-$2,000.  

The day’s marquee item is a pair of white jade quail boxes just two inches tall and of the Qing Dynasty. Symbols of harmony and peace, the figures display distinctive beaks, highly articulated wings and webbed feet. The box cover is formed of the upper part of the birds; the bottom by their lower bodies. The pair is Lot 122 and has a pre-sale estimate of $40,000-$60,000.   

Also Qing is a rare pair of celadon green jade Mughal style vases with covers. The tall baluster form vessels with ruyi handles are carved in low relief with dragon and phoenix amid scroll sprays. The pair is Lot 109 and will command as much as $30,000.  Meanwhile, Lot 90, a greenish-white jade vase with cover, also Mughal style, but hexagonal in form with scrolling handles, takes the podium at Lot 90. The pair is valued at $6,000-$8,000.

An extensive collection of jade jewelry - bracelets, necklaces, pendants and earrings - opens the sale. Highlights include Lot 1, a shell shaped pendant of icy white estimated at $600-$800. Lot 20 is a 17th century rope-twist bangle of hetian white jade valued at $1,500-$2,000. Lot 26 is a jadeite band with a saddle top of vivid emerald green color and high translucency. It is $800-$1,500. 

Several items couple jadeite with precious stones and metals. Jadeite earrings in the shape of leaves with rose-cut diamonds mounted in 14 carat gold, positioned at Lot 29, is an exceptional buy at about $3,000.  

Meanwhile, the shades of jade stone add drama to several important dragon seals. Black jade is used for a Ming seal surmounted by crouching dragons. The surface of its square base is inscribed Longqin Huangdi Zhibao. It is Lot 191, weighing five pounds and valued at upwards of $20,000. Spinach green jade enlivens an Imperial seal with recumbent coiled dragons. Its base is carved with the Xiaozhuan and Manchu script, and four Zhuawen characters: Wei Yao Ze Zhi. This is Lot 210, expected to make $30,000. Also, an archaistic seal of celadon jade with brown inclusions is topped by a single coiled dragon. Weighing two-and-half pounds, it is Lot 172, valued at $6,000-$10,000. 

Mindful of China’s long pre-occupation with jade, two archaistic properties need mentioning.  The first is a Western Zhou dragon carrying a mythical beast as a libation zun. Of mottled yellowish and brown jade, it is Lot 123, valued at $6,000-$8,000. A Large neolithic ceremonial jade blade with green jade punctuated by black areas presents a stirring image. It is Lot 254, $5,000 or more.  

Chinese artisans, ever aware of the inherent forms within raw materials, have been able to bring forth wondrous carvings such as Lot 137, a pair of wood carved dragons on cresting waves upholding an imperial seal. The Ming forms, 22 3/4 inches in length, are expected to fetch as much as $5,000.

Porcelains come to the podium in many forms and glazes, many of them rare and important. The catalog cover, for instance, features an 18th century Qing masterwork of form and color unlike any that has come to the podium in recent times. Experts at China Institute in New York have stated that porcelains of the period are notable for the perfection of their bodies and the opaque overglaze enamels that embellished them. Lot 190 is a prime example. The graceful globular form with slender neck is glazed in a vibrant yellow that is consistent and even overall. Were that not sufficient, it is further decorated with carvings of two dragons contesting a pearl among ruyi clouds and flames. A key fret band encircles the mouth and a turbulent wave encircles the foot. Of the Imperial kiln, it is of period and bears the Qianlong four character relief mark. Standing 13-inch tall, the vase is conservatively valued at $300,000-$500,000. 

Subtle and stunning, Lot 194 is a numbered Junyao rose-red basin with boss reliefs made exclusively for use of the Southern Song Royal court and similar to one collected by the Shanghai Museum. The inner surface is of signature sky blue with earth worm motifs running freely. The brown glazed bottom has the Chinese numeral Wu (five).The basin is expected to hit $200,000.

Lot 174, also of the Southern Song, is a rare Guanyao bottle vase with a crackle glaze of golden beige in a web of translucent threads below the surface. Its opening bid is $150,000. At a more modest level is Lot 231, a blue and white ewer painted with phoenix and topped with lid in the shape of phoenix head. It will reach $30,000 or more.

Lot 203, a reverse painted, copper-red brush washer with ten lobes outlined in white. The white five-clawed dragon at the washer’s center chases flaming pearl amidst clouds.  Of the Ming Dynasty, it has the Xuande six-character, double circles mark. Of the period it will go for between $80,000 and $150,000.

Featured among the famille-rose items is Lot 136, a Qing Dynasty 9-peach vase. Its globular body is decorated with peaches on leafy gnarled branches, all on a white ground. Of the period and bearing the Qianlong Six Character mark, its hammer price will exceed $30,000. An excellent entry level famille-rose set is Lot 107, a a pair of Qing bowls painted with birds among flowering branches. Of the period and bearing the Yongzheng Six-Character mark, the pair will go off at $3,000 or more. 

The collection of Chinese paintings include abstracts, landscapes and portraits by market favorites. In Lot 77, for instance, “Herd in the Wind Reed”, estimated at $60,000-$80,000, Wu Guanzhong interprets wildly rushing wind through bold splashes of color that nearly obliterate the migrating animals represented by curved splashes of black.  

In contrast, Qi Gong gives collectors “Lotus in Summer,” is a dynamically balanced painting the focuses the viewer’s eye on a dark floral base before drawing it upward to a red bud that is but a tease before the pay-off of fully blossomed lotus of deepest hue. Dated 1992, the work is inscribed and signed Qi Gong and bears two artist seals. It is Lot 25, $10,000-$20,000.

Lot 104, “Solitary Trail,” an allegory for the human journey is a powerful image delivered in delicate brush strokes. A rangy tree, tall and with slender limbs unadorned by leaves, is set off from a forest of similar trees. Their is merely the hint of a mountain in the background, created by a sparseness of strokes that leave much to the imagination. By the Ming Dynasty painter Shen Zhou, the ink-on-paper is inscribed and signed. It  has two artist seals, nine collectors seals, a frontispiece by Tang Yefin, and colophon by Yao Yuanzhi. Its estimate, $100,000-$150,000.

Li Keran, who often approaches his subjects with whimsy, provides a well rendered classic landscape for a simple water buffalo herder to contemplate in “Admiring Mountain View,” Lot 48, dated 1984. Bidding on the signed ink-and-color on paper with one artist seal begins at $120,000. In a remarkable display of technique and perspective “Springtime in the South” evokes the wonder of sailing vessels by a seaside town caught the wind shadow of a majestic mountain. The catalog estimate is $30,000-$50,000. 

From the hand of Zhang Daqian, the prolific twentieth century master, comes Lot 147 “Maiden”, a full length portrait in blue, white and red. Bidding begins at $40,000. Lot 256, a 1953 abstraction in tones of orange and green entitled “Golden Landscape”, makes the master’s work accessible at $6,000-$8,000.

In the eye of Qi Baishi, less is more as evidenced by Lot 76 “Playful Fish,” a clever study in movement, aptly catalogued at $10,000-$20,000. Meanwhile, Lin Fengman’s “Birds and Flowers”, Lot 81, depicting two mynah amidst branches and bright green leaves is a delight. Signed with one artist seal is $15,000-$20,000.

For a comprehensive look at all the items in Gianguan Auctions June 25th sale, please visit and download the catalog.  

Previews begin on Friday, June 17 and extend through Friday, June 24. The auction on Saturday, June 25 begins at 10:00 a.m. It will be conducted live at Gianguan Auctions, 39 W. 56th Street, NYC and on the internet. For condition reports, please contact the Gallery Director at 212-867-7288 or email info(at)gianguanauctions(dot)com.

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Gina Kolbe

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