Purchase Story

Chinese Export Art

Christie’s, New York City

Photos courtesy Christie’s

Christie’s has been selling the Tibor collection over the past several years. Formed over decades, it numbers more than 500 works and encompasses every category of Chinese export porcelain, from small, charming teawares to massive pairs of jars. The collection is named for the richly decorated vases called tibores by Hispanic buyers and is rich in works made for the Spanish market and Spanish territories. Becky MacGuire, in charge of Chinese export sales at Christie’s, said the late Mexican collector who formed the collection, whom she would not name, “had a deep appreciation for the magnificent porcelains made for New Spain as well as for the lifelike charm and elegance of Chinese porcelain figures and animals.”

Christie’s small timed online sale of Chinese export art on January 20 that kicked off Americana Week sales included the last of the Tibor collection. It also included the Eckenhoff collection of Chinese export tankards and export wares from other estates and consignors. Of the 143 lots offered, 107 sold for $1,128,750; the auction was 75% sold by lot.

It was the last sale at Christie’s for MacGuire, who has led the department with great success for the last two decades. She is retiring from Christie’s but not from this field, and she has handed the reins to Carleigh Queenth, Christie’s vice president specialist head of European ceramics and glass in New York City.

Queenth has worked with MacGuire since 2004. She cataloged sales for the collections of Leo Hodroff, Benjamin F. Edwards, and others and also cataloged sales of European ceramics collected by Syd Levethan, Richard Mellon Scaife, President Ronald Reagan, and David and Peggy Rockefeller, among others. She is a board member of the American Ceramic Circle, a member of the French Porcelain Society and the Majolica International Society, and an Attingham Summer School alumna. She has a following for her Instagram posts: @breakingisbad.

Pair of goose tureens and covers, 14¹⁄?

Pair of goose tureens and covers, 14 1/2" long, Qianlong period, 1760-80, naturalistically formed, shown swimming, with their webbed feet tucked beneath, heads held forward, and curved necks forming handles for the tureen covers, sold for $150,000 (est. $125,000/175,000). At the sale of the Mottahedeh collection at Sotheby’s in October 2000 one had sold for $81,250, and at Christie’s in January 23, 2002, the other had sold for $116,000.

The ox-head tureen and cover, 12¾

The ox-head tureen and cover, 12¾" long, Qianlong period, 1736-95, with a turned-up head, naturalistically modeled with wide-set, bulging eyes and flaring nostrils beneath long, curved, dark gray horns, its open mouth revealing teeth, a pink tongue, and flesh-toned interior, its hide picked out in soft, mottled tones of grisaille, sold for $52,500 (est. $40,000/60,000). The catalog noted: “While many other animal tureens for export mimicked European ceramic models, the ox-head seems to be a Chinese invention, as there are no known ox-head tureens made by European manufacturers.... The ox is the second figure in the Chinese zodiac, respected for its qualities of industriousness and patience and associated with water, agriculture, and spring.”

This famille rose rooster tureen cover, 15½

This famille rose rooster tureen cover, 15½" long, Qianlong period, 1736-95, with feathers picked out in colorful enamels, its breast shaded orange and head comb and wattle in pink, on a modern tureen base, sold for $43,750 (est. $10,000/15,000).

The pair of famille rose roosters, 14½

The pair of famille rose roosters, 14½" tall, Qianlong period, 1736-95, each bird modeled standing on a pierced rockwork base, its head turned to the side, sold for $52,500 (est. $20,000/30,000). The catalog noted: “An auspicious bird in China, associated with good luck as well as faithfulness and perseverance, the rooster was also one of the most favored models in Chinese export porcelain.”

The massive pair of geese, late 18th/early 19th century, the taller one (22½

The massive pair of geese, late 18th/early 19th century, the taller one (22½") standing with its head held high on a long, slender neck, the other turned back preening a wing, the plumage on both with molded details, and the pebbly skin of their broad webbed feet glazed orange, sold for $50,000 (est. $20,000/30,000). The catalog noted: “In China geese are considered romantic, symbolizing loyalty and marital happiness. They are said to fly always in pairs and to mate for life, even remaining solitary if a mate dies.”

The pair of large white cranes, 19 5/8

The pair of large white cranes, 19 5/8" high, Qianlong period, 1736-95, modeled with heads cocked, with beady eyes encircled in yellow, standing on green legs and perched on a brown tree stump, sold for $32,500 (est. $8000/12,000).

Chinese export art has an international following, but it has always been part of Americana Week sales and has had a presence at the Winter Show and the Ceramics Fair. There were only a few minor lots made for the American market in this sale. The highlights were tureens and figures of birds. A pair of goose tureens sold for $150,000 (includes buyer’s premium); the estimate was $125,000/175,000. A rare ox-head tureen sold for $52,500 (est. $40,000/60,000), and a rooster tureen brought $43,750 (est. $10,000/15,000). A pair of famille rose roosters sold for $52,500 (est. $20,000/30,000), a massive pair of geese went for $50,000 (est. $20,000/30,000), and a pair of large white cranes sold for $32,500 (est. $8000/12,000).

For more information, check the website (www.christies.com) or call (212) 636-2000.

This 19th-century Chinese school depiction of a wedding procession circling a lake, including bearers with puppets, magicians, and gifts, ink and colors on paper, 19¼

This 19th-century Chinese school depiction of a wedding procession circling a lake, including bearers with puppets, magicians, and gifts, ink and colors on paper, 19¼" x 25 3/8", sold for $11,875 (est. $3000/5000).

This rare plate for the Portuguese market, circa 1820, enameled and painted en grisaille at the center with the three-masted merchant ship the Brilliante flying a pennant with the initials “MAS,” 9

This rare plate for the Portuguese market, circa 1820, enameled and painted en grisaille at the center with the three-masted merchant ship the Brilliante flying a pennant with the initials “MAS,” 9" diameter, sold for $30,000 (est. $3000/5000).

This large blue and white Pronk “La Dame au Parasol” dish, Qianlong period, circa 1738, decorated with the typical scene and cell-pattern rim, 14

This large blue and white Pronk “La Dame au Parasol” dish, Qianlong period, circa 1738, decorated with the typical scene and cell-pattern rim, 14" diameter, and with Cohen & Cohen, London, provenance, sold for $8125 (est. $7000/10,000). In 1734 the directors of Holland’s VOC (Dutch East India Company) commissioned Amsterdam artist Cornelis Pronk (1691-1759) to create four patterns for Chinese porcelain. Pronk’s drawings were sent to VOC headquarters in Batavia in the Dutch East Indies (later Java) and then on to Canton in 1736; two drawings survive today in the Rijksmuseum. The first and best known of the Pronk patterns, known as “La Dame au Parasol,” shows a lady shaded by her maid as she feeds waterbirds.

Pair of large grisaille and sepia spaniel puppies, each 10½

Pair of large grisaille and sepia spaniel puppies, each 10½" long, Qianlong period, 1736-95, each long-eared pup modeled recumbent, their fur depicted in gray with white patches, sold for $17,500 (est. $10,000/15,000).

The large (9¼

The large (9¼" long) reclining brown pug, Qianlong period, 1736-95, with its tail curled around its haunches and collar with a gilt bell, sold for $13,750 (est. $4000/6000).

The pair of famille rose nesting bird boxes and covers, 6½

The pair of famille rose nesting bird boxes and covers, 6½" long, Qianlong period, 1736-95, the birds’ plumage picked out in colors, their iron-red bodies enriched in gilt, each seated on a blue nest with varicolored leaves, sold for $10,625 (est. $6000/8000).

A massive pair of ruby and famille rose jars and covers, 35

A massive pair of ruby and famille rose jars and covers, 35" high, Yongzheng period, 1723-35, each finely enameled with a basket of spring flowers and with ruby lappets at the shoulders, sold for $27,500 (est. $12,000/18,000). The pair had sold at Christie’s on November 21, 2011, for $35,000.

This grisaille and gilt punch bowl depicting the hongs of Canton, 14

This grisaille and gilt punch bowl depicting the hongs of Canton, 14" diameter, Qianlong period, circa 1785, painted with a continuous scene of the Canton waterfront, with small junks moored in the foreground and foreign factories flying their flags, the interior with the British East Indiaman Pitt, sold for $15,000 (est. $10,000/15,000). It had been in the collection of the late Anne Weiler and J. Jefferson Miller.

Three portrait mugs, the tallest 61/8

Three portrait mugs, the tallest 6 1/8" high, Qianlong period, circa 1746, each bell-shaped and painted with a portrait of the Duke of Cumberland and an inscription commemorating his win over the Scots in the Battle of Culloden, sold for $10,000 (est. $2000/3000). The medium-size mug had sold for $13,750 at the sale of the collection of Benjamin F. Edwards III at Christie’s on January 26, 2010.

The pair of famille verte biscuit-glazed piggyback boys, Kangxi period, 1662-1722, each smiling and wearing colorfully enameled clothing, sold for $30,000 (est. $5000/8000). The 9¾

The pair of famille verte biscuit-glazed piggyback boys, Kangxi period, 1662-1722, each smiling and wearing colorfully enameled clothing, sold for $30,000 (est. $5000/8000). The 9¾" high figures came from the estate of Abby and George O’Neill. Abby O’Neill (d. 2017) was the granddaughter of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Eight mugs for the American market, the tallest 6

Eight mugs for the American market, the tallest 6", sold for $1500 (est. $1500/2000). The lot included a mug with an eagle and a United States seal; one with a lovebird crest beneath an English-style border; one with a floral-entwined urn; one in a Canton blue-and-white pattern; one depicting the arms of the United States, with a spread-wing eagle with a ribbon in its beak inscribed “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and a red-striped spade-shaped shield; a blue Fitzhugh tankard with a trellis border; a mug with a green Fitzhugh border with stylized butterflies; and one in a Canton famille rose medallion pattern.

Two famille rose court figures, Qianlong period, 1736-95, with serene expressions, the lady with colorful robes, the 17¼

Two famille rose court figures, Qianlong period, 1736-95, with serene expressions, the lady with colorful robes, the 17¼" tall gentleman with a high official’s hat, sold for $27,500 (est. $15,000/25,000). The figure of the gentleman has provenance of Marchant, London.


Originally published in the April 2021 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2021 Maine Antique Digest

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