Gianguan Auctions Rolls Out Historic Pre-Asia Week Sale

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Collectors of Chinese works of art will find devotional art, historic calligraphy, traditional and modern paintings, ceramics, carved jades and Tibetan prayer beads at Gianguan Auctions March 10th sale in New York City.

Gianguan Auctions will hold its annual spring sale on Saturday, March 10. Gallery previews begin on Wednesday, February 28 and run through Friday, March 9.

The marquee item is Zhao Mengfu’s "Script Calligraphy of a Poem by Liu Zongyuan, Journey to the East Gate”. The nearly one-hundred inch long calligraphy is signed Ziang. It has one artist seal, 10 Emperors Seals, and 19 Collector’s Seals. The frontispiece is by Gao Shiqi, with colophons by Pan Zhengwei and Wu Dacheng. Descended from the Song’s imperial family, Zhao Mengfu came to prominence during the Yuan Dyansty, which was under Mughul rule. Bidding on Lot 81 begins at $300,000 but is expected to reach as high as $1,500,000 USD.

Among the Modernist paintings, Wu Qingxi’s “Lotus Pond Carp” takes the spotlight with a metaphorical work that depicts a large carp frolicking beneath a lone lotus blossom. Because of the gender disparity in art, Wu Qingxia’s works have been undervalued. That may change with the renewed emphasis on women’s accomplishments. Lot 39 is estimated at $8,000-$15,000.

Zhang Daqian’s “Four Panel Painting of Poet Li Bai,” is an expressive portrayal of the solitary pursuits of one in tune with the universe. Sparely rendered, the white robed poet sits, walks, ponders and absorbs that around him, which is reflected in each panel’s calligraphic tribute. Entitled, inscribed and signed Daqian, each panel carries 3 artists seals. Bidding on Lot 62 starts at $10,000 although the work is expected to command as much as $100,000.

A jade boulder from the MIT Museum collection that originally sold at Christie’s in June, 1994, makes its stand at Lot 53. Of fine mottled russet jadeite, it has three incised windows through which gleam bright patches of the vibrant emerald stone. Of irregular form, the 5 pound stone carries a pre-sale estimate of more than $150,000.

The leading figurative carved jade is a horse drawn chariot of pristine Hetian white. Of the Qin Dynasty, the 9 inch tall sculpture is carved and reticulated to deliver a commanding homage to the Emperor’s carriage. Seated under a turreted canopy that bears the royal insignia, the figure is guarded by four spear bearing warriors. The charioteer handles chain linked jade reins. The yoke, crossbar, wheel hub, sideboard, spoke and drawbar are all highly detailed. Lot 133, the two-thousand year old work of art is expected to fetch upwards of $50,000, with $1.8M being the top estimate.

The silvery glow of hammered bronze overlaid with white slip and polychrome gives a pair of Tang pottery court ladies a very special glow. Dressed in long flowing robes embellished with a floral medallion of phoenix and birds, one holds a song bird in her hand while the other modestly conceals her hands within the sleeves of a robe. The condition is excellent and the remaining pigment appropriate for its age. This is Lot 109, having an opening bid of $200,000.

With devotional art an integral part of the Chinese ethic and highly popular among western practitioners of Buddhism and yoga, the sale would not be complete without exceptional offerings. Among these is Lot 151, a Tang, gilt copper volume of the Pratyutpanna Sutra (Vol. 3). Finely incised in clerical script, the etched sheets are bound by hinges as an album and housed in a rectangular box carved with Maitreya on the cover. More than 63-inches long, the 22-inch tall volume is Lot 151, valued at more than $30,000.

From the Sui Dynasty comes a free-standing, gilt bronze altarpiece with 7 branching Buddhas surrounding a central figure of Buddha Maitreya sitting atop a lotus throne. Similar to pieces in the Boston Museum of Fine Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the dramatic piece is in the style of the Great Tower of Ashoka. A remarkable example of devotional art that may well have a meditation of its maker, the altarpiece is Lot 82, with a market value that falls between $20,000-$100,000.

Meanwhile, a highly detailed Northern Wei Dynasty Buddhist stele with pointed arch offers a meditation on a standing Buddha flanked by bodhissatvas guarded by dragons. All are backed by a flaming mandorla under an ogee that ascends amidst flying apsara. At the uppermost point is a stupa, the metaphor for housed relics or blessed remains. The Buddhist stele is reminiscent of items in the collection of the Qingzhou Museum that were excavated in 1996 at the Longxing Temple of Qingzhou, in Shandong Province. The 29 pound carving is Lot 184, valued at about $80,000.
The ceramics highlight is an unusual Ming blue and white with copper red dragon vase with garlic heard. Two dragons frolic on the bulbous body on a ground of penciled, turbulent waves in graduated tones of cobalt blue, a technique characteristic of the period. At the top of the long neck, a copper red dragon sweeps upwards. Lot 246 is 11 inches tall and positioned to find its collector at as much as $100,000.    

Anchoring the auction is a collection of seals. Outstanding among these is Lot 108, a set of six white jade seals with elephants knops and characters in Zhuanshu script the deliver words of wisdom. The set is attributed to Emperor Kangxi. Housed in a fitted zitan box, the set is a rarity that will find interest in the midrange.

Other seals of Shoushon, Furong, Malachite and Tianhuang have knops cleverly designed with an amphora bottle (Lot 92) or Louhan holding fans (Lot 93), traditional qilin (Lot 98), even the occasional snail (Lot 94). Values run from $300 upwards.

For details on these and other properties in Gianguan Auctions’ March 10 sale, please see the online catalog at Bidding takes place live at the gallery, 39 W. 56th Street, NYC and on and

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Gina Kolbe
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