Most Valuable Works Of Art, Ceramics, Furniture
This week, the Chinese art news site CN Arts posted an interesting list of China’s “6 Priceless ‘Made in China’ Treasures,” looking at some of the most expensive works of art, collectibles and luxury goods that are distinctly Chinese in origin as well as design. With China currently being inundated with luxury goods from around the world, and many wealthy Chinese all too willing to deck themselves out head-to-toe in foreign fashions, drive European cars and buy Western-style furniture for their apartments, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that China — for the vast majority of its long history — too has had home-made luxury goods in the form of hand-carved furniture, traditional ceramics and fine lacquerware.
Although the CN Arts list of “Priceless ‘Made in China’ Treasures” deems these items “#1” in their respective categories, the list is highly subjective in nature. For example, the Xu Beihong painting “Portrait of Miss Jenny” is called out as the #1 oil painting presumably due to its back story — which involves Xu’s selfless fundraising work during the early years of the Second Sino-Japanese War — rather than its sale price, as Chinese modern and contemporary oil paintings regularly sell in the millions of dollars. Similarly, Lu Yanshao’s 100-part traditional Chinese painting series on poet Du Fu is far from the most expensive work of its kind, yet is chosen because Lu devoted his entire life’s work to the massive and culturally significant project.
The list, as compiled by CN Arts (translation by Jing Daily team):
No.1 Chinese Traditional Painting & Calligraphy
Lu Yanshao (陆俨少) – Du fu shi yi bai kai ce
Auction sale price: 69.3 million yuan (US$10.23 million)
Auction house: Beijing Hanhai
Sold: June 2004
Background: Lu Yanshao’s (1909-1993) 100-part traditional Chinese painting series “100 installations of the poetic essence of Du Fu” (杜甫诗意百开册) was the artist’s masterpiece and life’s work. Each work in this series measures 43.5cm×27.5cm, and the whole series would measure around 107.66 square feet. During the Cultural Revolution, the series was turned over to the Shanghai Art Academy, though 35 pieces had been stolen. In 1989, at the age of 80, Lu Yanshao finally finished repainting these lost panels in Beijing, completing at long last this great work.
No.1 Oil Painting
Xu Beihong (徐悲鸿) – Portait of Miss Jenny
Auction sale price: 22 million yuan (US$3.25 million)
Auction house: Beijing Poly
Sold: November 2005
Background: During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), artist Xu Beihong actively advocated war with the Japanese over surrender, traveling throughout coastal southern China and selling artwork and engaging in fundraising for the Chinese war cause. Ultimately, Xu was able to raise $10 million through his charity fundraising efforts, all of which he donated to aid the wartime resistance. In 1939, Xu created the work “Portrait of Miss Jenny” on commission by the Belgian vice consul to Singapore, donating his handsome remuneration directly to wartime charity. In the painting, “Jenny,” a native Shanghainese hostess, sits in a wicker chair wearing a traditional qipao, with warm sunshine playing on her face, her elegant pose reflecting her soft, tender beauty.
No.1 Chinese Stamp
Red, small print stamp, “one dollar” (1897)
Auction sale price: 2.2 million yuan (US$324,859)
Auction house: China Guardian
Sold: November 2003
Background: In the late 19th century, these red stamps — designed to discourage import and export tax fraud — were used temporarily and few remain. Presently, only 31 surviving examples of the red “one dollar” Qing Dynasty stamps are known to exist throughout the world.
NO.1 Chinese Porcelain
Yuan Dynasty blue-and-white “gui gu xia shan” (鬼谷下山) vase
Auction sale price: 230 million yuan (US$34 million)
Auction house: Christie’s, London
Sold: July 2005
No.1 Chinese Furniture
12-panel room divider (Kangxi era, Qing Dynasty)
Auction sale price: 25 million yuan (US$3.69 million)
Auction house: Christie’s, Hong Kong
Sold: July 2003
No.1 Chinese Lacquer
Ming Dynasty carved red lacquer box with “cloud dragon” engraving, Yongle Emperor era (1402-1424)
Auction sale price: HK$11.26 million (US$1.45 million)
Auction house: Christie’s, Hong Kong
Sold: Spring 2001
Background: This is one of the finest examples of “red tick” lacquer engraving from the Ming Dynasty reign of the Yongle Emperor.