Seal commissioned by the Qianlong emperor that realised €1.8m (£1.54m) at Sotheby’s.

Image credit: Sotheby’s / ArtDigital Studio

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The Printemps Asiatique celebration of Asian Art in Paris, held from June 8-16, meant there were a wealth of dealers’ shows and auctions taking place around this time in the French capital. Pictured here is a selection of some of the auction highlights from sales that took place in the first half of June.

Sotheby’s Asian Arts

The highlight of the June 16 mixed owner sale held by Sotheby’s (26/21/14.9% buyer’s premium) during the Printemps Asiatique was a green jade Imperial dragon seal made for the Qianlong emperor which leap-frogged an estimate of €100,000-150,000 to sell for €1.8m (£1.54m).

The seal had been given to the vendor by her godmother, whose family had passed it down to her, and had been housed in a bookcase in a family home in France for over 30 years. It was discovered by Sotheby’s specialist Christian Bouvet when the vendor decided to have some of the objects valued.

The seal is one used by Qianlong after he stepped down from power in favour of his chosen heir Jiaqing at the age of 85 (he felt it inauspicious to exceed the 61-year reign of his grandfather Kangxi). On becoming emperor emeritus, he commissioned 20 sets of three seals to be carved in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials to commemorate the end of his reign.

This green jade seal, which would have been used to stamp a signature in the upper right corner of paintings or calligraphy, formed part of that special order and is recorded in the Qianlong Baosou (the official list of seals of the Qianlong emperor). It bears the inscription De sui chu xin (Able to achieve my initial intention) and was associated with the Taishang Huangdi (Treasure of the Retired Emperor) seal: Guizheng nai xunzheng (Having abdicated but continuing to reign).


Gilt bronze and cloisonné enamel elephant and rider – €650,000 (£555,555) at Sotheby’s.

Image credit: Sotheby’s / ArtDigital Studio

Other highlights of the sale included a gilt bronze and cloisonné enamel figure of an elephant from the Qianlong period measuring 20 x 19¼in (51 x 49cm). The richly caparisoned animal is shown with a foreign rider detailed with a curling beard and prominent brows.

The elephant was last under the hammer in Sotheby’s London rooms in March 2007 when it was sold from the estate of Christian, Lady Hesketh. Offered this time from a European private collection, it realised €650,000 (£555,555) against a guide of €150,000-200,000.

The sale also featured a group of jades that had come from a Parisian collection formed between the 1960s and 80s. Two white jade vessels from the Qianlong era were both formerly in the collection of Major RW Cooper and had sold at Christie’s in London in 1963.


Qianlong jade archaistic form ewer – €460,000 (£393,160) at Sotheby's.

Image credit: Sotheby’s / ArtDigital Studio

One of these was a 9in (22cm) high covered ewer in white and russet jade decorated with phoenix and dragons. Encouraged by the Qianlong emperor’s passion for the antique, Qing craftsmen often looked to the past for inspiration and adapted the forms and designs of archaic jades and bronzes into their pieces.

This particular ewer is inspired in both form and decoration by an archaic bronze pouring vessel known as a yi and belongs to a group of large archaistic white and russet jades commissioned by the Qing court from the mid-18th century several of which are still preserved in the Palace Museum. This sold for €460,000 (£393,160).


Qianlong jade dragon vase inscribed with an imperial poem – €370,000 (£316,240) at Sotheby’s Paris.

Image credit: Sotheby’s / ArtDigital Studio

The second was an 8¼in (21cm) high white jade bottle vase with a Yuzhi mark carved in high relief with a dragon chasing a flaming pearl and inscribed to one side with an imperial poem describing a scene in a painting by Dong Bangda. The poem, which is recorded in the Yuzhi shiji (Poetry Collection by His Majesty) can be dated to between March 18 and May 15, 1749. This sold for €370,000 (£316,240).

De Marteau collection

Bonhams (27.5/26/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) was another of the firms holding Asian auctions during the Printemps Asiatique offering the first of a series of dispersals of works from the collection of Claude de Marteau.

He was a specialist collector and dealer in Tibetan, Nepalese, Indian and Southeast Asia art and probably best known for his expertise in the field of Gandharan art. Bonhams is holding four sales of works from his collection over the course of this year and next. The Paris sale on June 14 raised a premium inclusive total of nearly €3.5m with almost 97% of the 64 lots finding buyers.


Gandharan schist figure of Buddha – €450,000 (£384,615) at Bonhams’ sale of the Claude de Marteau collection.

Topping the list at €450,000 (£384,615) was the 3rd or 4th century Gandharan grey schist figure of Buddha shown here. Finely and naturalistically sculpted and standing 4ft 10in (1.47m) high, it combines elements of Buddhist iconography with Greco Roman naturalism.

The second highest price of the auction was for a much smaller piece from North East India, a 5¾in (14.5cm) high 12th century copper alloy figure of Kapaladhara Hevarja embracing his consort Nairatma dating from the Pala period and previewed in ATG 2545. This sold for €260,000 (£222,220).


The Musée Guimet pre-empted this 10th century sandstone stele of Ganesha – €60,000 (£51,280) at Bonhams.

The very first lot of the sale, a 2ft 4in (71.5cm) high sandstone stele of the elephant headed deity Ganesha from central India dated to around the 10th century was bought by the Musée Guimet, the National museum for Asian art in Paris. It used the right of pre-emption to secure it for €60,000 (£51,280).

Arts de l’Indochine

Vietnamese art featured plentifully in the recent Asian Art sales in Paris. Prices are on something of a rise globally for works by artists from this region of South-East Asia that was at one time part of the French colony known as Indochine.

Many of these artists trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts de l’Indochine in Hanoi and some subsequently came to France to continue their artistic careers.

One of those alumni was the lacquer artist Le Quoc Loc (1918-87) who graduated in 1942 and settled in Hanoi. His polychrome lacquered two-door wooden cabinet proved to be the highlight of the Asian art sale held by Farrando (29.88% inc VAT buyer’s premium) at Drouot on June 10 when it outpaced its €80,000-120,000 guide to take €320,000 (£273,505).

The cabinet, measuring 6ft 5in x 4ft 3in (1.96 x 1.3m), is decorated to the front and sides with a panoramic landscape featuring a stream, fields and thatched cottages framed by mountains. The doors open to reveal a black lacquered interior fitted with seven compartments and three drawers.

The cabinet had an attractive primary provenance. It was acquired in the early 1940s by a Mr C who, from 1922-46, was a director of Louis Ogliastro et Cie (Saigon, Hanoi and Hai Phong). In 1946 on his final return to France, Mr C brought the cabinet back with him and it has passed down since by descent.

Lacquer artist


A lacquer panel by Nguyen Khang – €130,000 (£111,110) at Artcurial.

Image copyright: Artcurial

Another piece of Vietnamese art proved to be a highlight of the Asian art sale held by Artcurial (26/20/14,4% buyer’s premium) in Paris on June 8. This large lacquered wood panel is by the Vietnamese lacquer artist Nguyen Khang (1912-89), another Ecole des Beaux Arts de l’Indochine graduate, and is decorated in silver and red on a black ground with two seated young women feeding doves. The 5ft 7 x 2ft 11in (1.72 x 89cm) panel has two seals to the upper part. It outstripped a €25,000-35,000 guide to take €130,000 (£111,110).

Both sales also featured Chinese works. The Farrando auction included pieces from a collection assembled in the 1950s-60s that had come from a palace in Beirut. Among them was a large guan or jar dating from the Yuan dynasty decorated in underglaze blue with several bands of formal decoration featuring friezes of lappets, pheonix and scrolling flowers.


A blue and white guan sold by Farrando for €180,000 (£153,845).

Image: Farrando/Drouot

The two handles are moulded as lion heads. It had a section missing from the neck but nonetheless easily outstripped a conservative €4000- 6000 guide to take €180,000 (£153,845).

Another of the top lots in Artcurial’s sale was a cloisonné enamel bottle vase of quatrefoil outline decorated with lotus, foliate scrolls and handles formed as stylised animals. Standing 10in (25cm) high and with a Qianlong four-character seal mark to the base, it had a provenance to the collection of RW Richardson, London and had been purchased at Spink and Son in June 1963. It sold for €52,000 (£44,445)


A cloisonné enamel bottle vase – €52,000 (£44,445) at Artcurial.

Image copyright: Artcurial

The last empress

Delon-Hoebanx (30% buyer’s premium inc VAT) held a sale at Drouot on June 17 featuring works that had come from the collection of Nam Phuong (1913-63) the last empress of Vietnam. Born in 1913 into a Catholic family, at the age of 20 she married the emperor Bao Dai. After the Japanese occupation and the Communist revolution the couple moved to the CÔte d’Azur in France with their five children. All 157 lots were sold for a premium inclusive total of €3,448,016.

Much of the Delon-Hoebanx consignment comprised blue and white porcelain, the so-called bleu de Hue wares made in China for use in the Vietnamese court. Hue was the capital of Vietnam during the Nyguen dynasty (1802-1945).

There was also a small selection of other works including a group of around 30 jades and hardstones and it was the latter that produced the sale’s highest prices.


This Vietnamese jade bowl with an Imperial mark for the emperor of Annam sold for €650,000 (£555,555) at Delon-Hoebanx.

Image: Delon-Hoebanx/Drouot

Topping the bill at €650,000 (£555,555), a multiple of its €30,000-50,000 guide, was a 5¾in (14.5cm) diameter clear jade bowl with a gold rim. This was carved in relief with two dragons chasing the flaming pearl and bore to the underside the imperial mark in zhuanshu of the emperor of Annam Tu Duc who reigned from 1848-83.

An imperial scholar’s object belonging to the emperor Kai Dinh was also keenly pursued. This 4 x 3in (10.5cm x 8cm) white jade inkstone of Chinese or Vietnamese manufacture is carved in the form of a waterlily and set on a stand of red tinted bone carved with lotus and clouds.

The box has an inscription to the lid that translates as ‘treasure of the imperial scholar’. A label to the reverse translates as ‘In the fourth year of Khai Dinh, - 1916- 1925, Tuyen Hoaph sold a white jade inkstone for 120 silver huans. It was placed in the palace of Cung An Dinh.’

This sold for €220,000 (£188,035) against a €30,000- 40,000 guide.

A third sought-after jade lot, selling for €170,000 (£145,300) against a guide of €20,000-30,000, was a small pair of Chinese/ Vietnamese covered boxes carved as seated rams with hardstone eyes dating from the 18th/19th century and measuring 4¼x 3½in (11 x 9cm).

Hokusai prints

Rossini’s (28.8% buyer’s premium inc VAT) mixed discipline sale of furniture, Old Masters and works of art on June 15 included four Japanese woodblock prints by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Three of them came from Hokusai’s famous series Thirty six views of Mount Fuji.

Much the most expensive at €260,000 (£222,220) was a print of Southern breeze clear weather also known as Red Fuji measuring 10 x 15in (25 x 38cm) which had come from the estate of Raymond Gid (1905-2000).

Storm under the Summit measuring 10 x 14½in (25 x 37cm) which had the same Gid provenance realised €52,000 (£44,445) while a print of Ejiri in Suruga province measuring 9½in x 14¾in (24.5 x 37.5) made €9000 (£7690).

The fourth print, measuring 10 x 15in (25 x 38cm), which came from the series Famous views of bridges in various provinces depicted The boat bridge at Sano in Kuzuke province and realised €10,000 (£8545).

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