Sunday, October 27, 2013



It is a food vessel used during sacred rituals during the Western Zhou dynasty and you can still use it to eat instant noodles! Howzat for art and utility combined!

So if you are in London in November 2013 and wish to acquire a heirloom your descendants will thank you for though you are in your grave, this 4.5 kg ritual bronze vessel is it!

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This costs around RM 15 million! Maybe more!


Giuseppe Eskenazi is renowned for handling Chinese objects of the greatest rarity and quality but the bronze vessel to be exhibited at Eskenazi Ltd, 10 Clifford Street, London, from 31 October to 22 November 2013 is exceptional even by his high standards.  Known as the Bo Ju gui, it dates from circa 1050-975 BC, early Western Zhou period, and is one of the most important Chinese bronzes to come on the market in the past twenty years.  Its exhibition coincides with Asian Art in London (31 October to 9 November), the annual event that unites London’s Asian art dealers, major auction houses and societies in a series of selling exhibitions, auctions, receptions, lectures and seminars, attracting collectors from around the globe.

Giuseppe Eskenazi says of this extraordinary vessel: ‘When I published my memoirs A Dealer’s Hand that recorded many of the marvellous archaic Chinese bronzes that have passed through the gallery’s doors, I would never have expected that a year later I would be privileged to handle a vessel that overshadows them all in historical importance’. 
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Such archaic bronze vessels were made for ritual use, and the combination of the square box-like base and rounded body of the gui was an innovation of the early Western Zhou.  Its exceptional design incorporates animal masks in high relief on the vessel, mirrored on each corner of the base, and in profile on the sides.  However, what distinguishes this bronze is the inscription inside the basin – ‘Bo Ju made this precious offering vessel’.  Bo Ju was a prominent figure in the state of Yan, a remote but important region of Zhou, and he appears to have commissioned bronze vessels of various types that are all cast with his name.  Some may now be seen in museum collections. 

This bronze was first published in 1872, when it was already a subject for discussion and highly prized by Chinese collectors.  It is known to have belonged to the Qing connoisseur Pan Zuyin (1830-1890), a major bronze collector whose most important pieces are now in the Shanghai Museum.  More recently the bronze has been in the collection of Walter Hochstadter, Adelaide, and, since 1993, in a private collection.  Widely documented, it was included in the highly acclaimed Bronze exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 2012.

The accompanying catalogue will include an introductory essay by Dr Lukas Nickel, Reader in Chinese Art History and Archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

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This flowerpot costs over a million pounds! The rim is 20 cm and height is 18.5 cm only so you cannot plant an aspidistra palm but is ideal for cut roses
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Glazed stoneware bowl with foliated rim, 11.3 cm
Eskenazi Ltd will present an exhibition of sixteen pieces of Jun ware at 10 Clifford Street, London, from 31 October to 22 November 2013.  The exhibition will be a major contribution to the 16th Asian Art in London (31 October to 9 November), the annual event that unites London’s Asian art dealers, major auction houses and societies in a series of selling exhibitions, auctions, receptions, lectures and seminars, attracting collectors from around the globe.
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These flowerpots look ordinary enough and you can get similar looking pots at any pottery shop but these are of imperial provenance and is priced at over RM 6 million---EACH! So this trio will set you back at least RM 20 million to be safe! Each is around 19 cm high and 20 cm at the rim.

Jun ware is often described as one of the ‘Five Classic Wares’ (wu da yao) of the Song dynasty (960-1279).  The name ‘Jun’ is derived from the kiln near Juntai terrace within the north gate of what was the Yuzhou prefecture in Henan province where the ceramics were produced from the end of the Northern Song period (960-1127) to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).  Jun ware has been much admired over the centuries by both Chinese and Western connoisseurs for the beauty of its glaze that ranges from a classic thick opalescent sky blue to various mottled and streaked effects in tones of mauve, lavender and plum and also green.  Understanding how the glaze was created proved elusive until the late 1970s when it was discovered that the blue tone is not created by pigments at all but is actually an optical effect.  During firing the Jun glaze separates into light-scattering droplets of glass and when light passes through this ‘glass emulsion’, the blue spectrum of light is reflected, giving the ware its bluish hue.

Each piece in the Eskenazi exhibition has an impeccable provenance, and several have had distinguished previous owners such as Martine-Marie-Pol de Béhague, Comtesse de Béarn (1869-1939), Lord Cunliffe (1899-1963), Brodie Lodge (1880-1967) and his wife Enid, Hans Popper (1904-1971), and Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987).

The sixteen pieces illustrate the range of shapes and glazes produced from the 11th to the 15th centuries and, whilst the earlier works may have been used by the aristocracy and the wealthy, the larger 15th century display wares were specifically made for imperial use.  The popularity of Jun-glazed jardinières in various shapes at the Qing court, three hundred years after they were made, may be gleaned from their depiction in a number of paintings of the period.  These wares were displayed in buildings within the Forbidden City and the Eskenazi exhibition includes a group of four glazed stoneware flowerpots, or jardinières, and one glazed rectangular stoneware stand, all dating from the Ming dynasty.  One of these – a blue-glazed flowerpot of compressed baluster form (zhadou) – is later incised with characters indicating its place of use in the 18th century: ‘the Palace of Established Happiness; for use in the Hall of Concentrated Radiance’.  This palace complex was commissioned by the Qianlong emperor in the early 1740s as a new set of living quarters for himself near the north-west corner of the Forbidden City as a personal retreat, away from the ardours and duties of his role as emperor.  The original buildings were destroyed in a disastrous fire in June 1923, but the palace was reconstructed in 2005 by the China Heritage Fund.  

The high regard for Jun numbered wares at court during the Qing dynasty was not only due to the appreciation of the glazes but also because of a resurgence of interest in the art of penjing, creating miniature landscapes in a planter.  While the art of potting miniature trees and landscapes may have had its origins in earlier periods, the practice became widespread during the Song and Ming periods.  The miniature trees were treasured like antiques and paintings and their cultivation became an art form in itself.  This was transmitted to Japan as bonsai

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One of the earliest pieces in the exhibition is a small, finely potted grey stoneware dish with bracketed hexafoil rim from the Northern Song period, 11th-12th century.  A soft greenish-blue glaze covers the dish, thinning to an olive tone on the rim and vertical ribs.  The subtle glaze may point to the influence of the imperial Ru kilns on the Jun potters while the distinctive bracket-form rim clearly has taken inspiration from contemporary lacquer and silver wares. This is only 11.7 cm

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A blue-glazed, purple-splashed grey stoneware dish from the Jin period, 12th-13th century, is covered with a sky-blue glaze thinning to an olive colour at the rim and suffused on the interior with a rich mauve splash incorporating plum and greenish tones.  The striking use of purple copper oxide ‘splashes’ against the characteristic blue ground is seen primarily on Jun wares of the Jin period (1115-1234).  Also from the Jin period, 13th century, is a large blue-glazed grey stoneware bowl with deep sides rising to a foliate rim.  Very few examples of such large ribbed bowls are to be found, even in museum collections.  

This is the first exhibition at Eskenazi to focus on a single ware and the range of shapes and beauty of the glaze will enable visitors to appreciate why these pieces have always been so prized.

The illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition includes highly informative essays by two respected scholars: Robert D. Mowry, Alan J. Dworsky Curator of Chinese Art Emeritus, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard Art Museums, and Nigel Wood, Emeritus Professor of Ceramics at the University of Westminster and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Oxford.

Eskenazi’s exhibitions are always eagerly awaited for the rarity of the objects offered and these exquisite pieces of Jun ware are no exception.  Since the family business was founded in Milan in 1923, the Eskenazi name has become synonymous with expertise in oriental art.  Giuseppe Eskenazi, who has been head of the business for over 50 years, has an unrivalled reputation for his knowledge and love of the subject and clients have included over seventy of the world’s major museums as well as private collectors.
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Location:                                Eskenazi Ltd, 10 Clifford Street, London W1S 2LJ

Exhibition opening hours:    Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm, Saturday 10 am to 1 pm
During Asian Art in London:  
Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 November, 10 am to 5 pm
Monday 4 November, Mayfair late-night opening, 9.30 am to 8.30 pm

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