The India Munghal Imperial artwork Exhibition











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Mughal painting of Emperor Jahangir who ruled India from 1605 to 1627. EPA/Bonhams

LONDON.- The magnificent portrait the Mughal Emperor Jahangir who reigned from 1605-1627, attributed to Abu’l Hasan, Nadir al-Zaman and dated AH 1026/AD 1617, sold for £1,420,000 at Bonhams Indian and Islamic Sale today, April 5th. It went to a Middle Eastern museum. The sale total was £2.7m.

The picture is a political tour de force in which the Emperor lays claim to a world-wide ambition. This is achieved through its full life-size magnificence, use of precious items in it s creation, and the words that accompany it, all make his all conquering ambition plain.

The portrait in gouache heightened with gold leaf on a fine woven cotton canvas shows the Emperor seated on a European-style throne. His head is surrounded by a radiating nimbus and he is wearing an embroidered floral tunic over a patka and striped pyjama, with applied plaster jewellery. There is a circular pendant around the Emperor’s neck set with mica, with jade and glass vessels at his side and carpet under his feet. The border has 26 cartouches of fine nasta’liq inscription.

Previously shown in the National Portrait Gallery in an exhibition on the Indian Portrait in 2010, the Emperor is shown seated on a gold decorated throne holding a globe, wearing elaborate robes and jewellery. The surrounding Persian inscription states it was painted at Mandu in AH1026/AD1617.

Alice Bailey, Head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams comments:“Thisis one of the rarest and most desirable 17thcentury paintings ever to come to auction. There is no other work of its kind known and its importance cannot be underestimated. The extraordinary detail and complexity of the painting both fascinate and bewitch the viewer. We are honoured to have sold it.”






The magnificent portrait the Mughal Emperor Jahangir who reigned from 1605-1627, attributed to Abu’l Hasan, Nadir al-Zaman and dated AH 1026/AD 1617, sold for £1,420,000. Photo Bonhams

gouache heightened with gold leaf on a fine woven cotton canvas, the Emperor shown seated on a European-style throne with relief decoration formed from raised red pigment, possibly lead, his head surrounded by a radiating nimbus and wearing an embroidered floral tunic over a patka and striped pyjama, with applied plaster jewellery, the circular pendant around the Emperor’s neck set with mica, with jade and glass vessels at his side and carpet under his feet, the border with 26 cartouches of fine nasta’liq inscription, secondary and tertiary support backings replaced and areas of restoration, framed including calligraphic border 210 x 141 cm.; the image within calligraphic border 197 x 128.5 cm. Sold for £1,420,000

NOTE:  [From top right:]
God is Great.
When he sees his lustrous likeness,
It is as if the excellent king is looking at a mirror.
(This royal distich which [is] written, was spoken
extempore by His Majesty Jahangir Padshah)
Virtue becomes a king more than his appearance,
The portrait of Shah Jahangir, son of Shah Akbar Padshah.
His visage is World-illuminating, and his virtues…
Which other king had such a visage and virtue?
If a hundred kings like Alexander came to the World.
They would all prostrate themselves a hundred times at a
glimpse of his face,
Whoever sees his image becomes an image-worshipper,
Whether a dervish who cultivates virtues, or a king.
Look at the kingly virtues in his face which is
The mirror of virtues of Akbar Padshah.
A hundred thousand praises be upon the pen of the painter,
Who through skill made this likeness of the justice-dispensing king.
Just to cast their eyes on King Jahangir’s face,
The kings of Rum [Turkey] and China wait at the gate.
In his likeness, the painter has created much magic,
It is as if the king had scattered gems from a ruby treasure chest.
Whoever sees his soul-nourishing appearance will say:
It is as if the king is moving gracefully with magnificence,
grandeur and shining majesty.
The image of victory and triumph is made up by his name,
Oh Lord, may the king be eternal over the seven climes.
It was completed during the year of the victory over the
Deccan, in Mandu, the regnal year 12, corresponding to
the year 1026.
May the World be filled with the light of such a World-illuminating one,
As long as the crown of kingship is lit with the light of the Sun.
The work of the most humble… [corresponding roundel at bottom left missing].

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Abul Fazl, The Ain-i-Akbari, translated by H. Blochmann and H.S. Jarrett, Bibliotheca Indica, 3 vols., Calcutta, 1873-94 (and reprinted)

Abul Fazl, The Akbarnama, translated by H. Beveridge, Bibliotecha Indica, 3 vols., Calcutta, 1898-1910 (and reprinted)

Akimushkin, O.F. The St. Petersburg Muraqqa’, Lugano (ARCH), 199

Beach, M.C. The Grand Mogul, Williamstown, 1978

Beach, M.C. The Imperial Image: paintings for the Mughal court, Washington (Freer Gallery), 1981

Canby, S. Humayun’s Garden Party. Princes of the House of Timur and Early Mughal Painting, Bombay (Marg Publications), 1994

Cleveland, M. and Koch, E. King of the world: the Padshahnama, London, 1997

Coomaraswamy, A.K. Catalogue of the Indian Collections in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Part VI, Mughal Painting, Cambridge, Mass., 1930

Ettinghausen, R. Paintings of the Sultans and Emperors of India in American Collections, Delhi (Lalit Kala), 1961

Ivanov, A.A., Akimushkin, O.F., Grek, T. and Giuzalian, L. (ed.), Album of Persian and Indian Miniatures (in Russian), Moscow, 1962 (and reprinted)

Jahangir. The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri ot Memoirs of Jahangir, translated by A. Rogers and edited by H. Beveridge, 2 vols in 1, London, 1909-1914 (and reprinted)

Kuhnel E. and Goetz, H. Indische Buchmalereien, Berlin, 1923

Losty, J.P. ‘Abu’l Hasan’, Master Artists of the Imperial Mughal Court, P. Pal ed., Bombay (Marg Publications), 1991, pp. 69-86

Lowry, G.D. A Jeweler’s Eye. Islamic Arts of the Book from the Vever Collection, Washington, 1988

Lowry G.D. The Emperor Jahangir and the iconography of the divine in Mughal painting, Rutger’s Art Review, vol. 4 1983, pp. 36-45

Maclagan, E. The Jesuits and the Great Mogul, London, 1932

Markel, S. (ed.) The World of Jade, Bombay (Marg), 1992

Okada, A. Imperial Mughal Painters, Paris 1992

Pal, P. Indian Painting. A catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection, vol. I, Los Angeles, 1993

Riazul Islam, Indo-Persian Relations, Tehran, 1970

Roe, Sir Thomas. The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe the the court of the Great Mogul, 1615-1619, as narrated in his journal and correspondence, edited by William Foster for the Hakluyt Society, 2 vol., London, 1899 (and reprinted)

Skelton, R. (ed.) The Indian Heritage, London (Victoria and Albert Museum), 1982

Skelton, R. ‘Europe and India’, Europa und die Kunst des Islam, 15. bis 18. Jahrhundert, 5, XXV, International Congress of Art History, Vienna, 1983, 33-42

Skelton, R. ‘Imperial Symbolism in Mughal Painting’, Content and Context of Visual Arts in the Islamic World, P. Soucek (ed.), Pennsylvania, 1988 (Papers from the Ettinghausen colloquium, New York, 1980), 177-187

Skelton, R. ‘Islamic and Mughal Jades’, Jade, R. Keverne (ed.), London, 1991, 272-295

Verma, S.P. Mughal Painters and their work, Delhi, 1994

Welch, S.C. India. Art and Culture 1300-1900, New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art), 1985



An inscribed Mughal emerald personal seal set in a diamond encrusted gold bangle and bearing the name of Major Alexander Hannay, an East India Company officer. Photo Bonhams

Another important item in the sale was an inscribed Mughal emerald personal seal set in a diamond encrusted gold bangle and bearing the name of Major Alexander Hannay, an East India Company officer. It sold for £90,000, well above its pre-sale estimate of £40,000 to £60,000.

The rectangular 18th century emerald is table-cut and was mounted in an enamelled gold bangle in the early 19th century. The three-line Persian inscription on the face of the emerald is in nasta’liq script and reads: “Amin al-Mulk Ashraf al-Dawla Alexander Hannay Bahadur Arsalan Jang AH 1185/ AD 1774-5″.

Major Alexander Hannay was in the service of the East India Company under William Hastings at the time when the company had transferred its trading role into a more military administrative one. In 1778, Hannay left Hastings’ service and entered that of the Nawab of Oudh. He managed the district of Gorakhpur, when during this period there were a number of disturbances as a result of his suspected oppression and misconduct.

The bangle has passed down through the family to the present owner.

Alice Bailey, Head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams, comments: “This is a particularly fine example of an inscribed Mughal gem whose history and known provenance adds to its interest. The glorious Victorian setting is in particularly appropriate and sympathetic to the long-standing Mughal tradition of combining gems and enamelling.”

The rulers of Mughal India often ordered their names and titles to be inscribed on rubies, emeralds and diamonds, a practice which originated in Iran under the Timurids (1370-1507). Some of these gems ended up in the collection of the Mughal emperors who continued the tradition.


An important Mughal inscribed Emerald mounted in an early Victorian diamond-set enamelled gold Bangle, bearing the name of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Hannay. Mughal India and Victorian England dated AH 1185/ AD 1771-72

the emerald of rectangular step-cut, the detachable diamond-set gold mount in the form of a floriated cartouche, the shanks of the hinged bangle with white enamel decoration depicting a stylised scrolling floral vine, in a Victorian leather fitted case marked “Hunt and Roskell, Jewellers and Goldsmiths to the Queen and Royal Family” ; the emerald 24 x 20 mm. and 24.62ct; the bangle 63 mm. max. diam. Sold for £90,000

Provenance: Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Hannay (1741/2 – 1782); and by descent to the present owner.

The inscription reads: “Amin al-Mulk Ashraf al-Dawla Alexander Hannay Bahadur Arsalan Jang AH 1185/ AD 1771/2″.

Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Hannay (1741/2-1783) was a soldier, administrator and adventurer, who amassed a substantial personal fortune in 18th Century India. Born into a Scottish landed family, he obtained an Ensign’s commission His Majesty’s 51st Regiment of Foot in December 1758. The following year he saw active service in the Seven Years War (1756-1763) in Western Germany under the Marquis of Granby, being present at the notable victory over the French at Minden fought on 1st August 1759. Having been advanced to Lieutenant on 2nd August 1760, he found himself unemployed when peace returned to Europe and looked to the recent British domination of Bengal to further his career. Supported by a ‘splendid testimonial from his commander-in-chief’, Hannay volunteered his services to the British East India Company and was given a Captain’s commission in the Company’s Bengal Army, dated 4th August 1765.

Appointed to the Bengal European Regiment, his career in the East nearly came to a premature end in 1766 when he was shipwrecked with the company of soldiers under his command in the British East Indiaman Falmouth (26 guns) off the Sogar Bank in the Bay of Bengal. On 1st October 1769 he was promoted Major and in May 1772 was appointed to the staff of a brigade of infantry.

In 1774, the year in which Warren Hastings, the Governor of the Calcutta Presidency, became the first Governor-General of India, Hannay was selected for the command of East India Company troops in a military expedition in support of Shuja-ud-Duala, the Nawab of Oudh, against the Afghan Rohillas, who were refusing to pay the Nawab a £2 million debt for military assistance in ejecting Mahratta forces from Rohilkhand.

Warren Hastings’s decision to support Shuja-ud-Duala, albeit at a price, was based on the concern that failing to do so would expose Oudh to the whim of a predatory neighbour and thereby endanger British interests in Bengal. It was a decision that would have serious consequences for Governor-General and ultimately for the posthumous reputation of Alexander Hannay, when Hastings was later accused of ‘robbery, cruelty and oppression towards the princes of India’, and impeached by the British Parliament in 1787.

After a march into Rohilkhand, the joint forces of the East India Company and the Nawab clashed with 40,000 Rohillas at the battle of Miranpur Katra on 23rd April 1774 (otherwise known to the British as the Battle of St. George after the day on which it was fought). In the ensuing action, in which Rohilla regent Hafiz Rahmat Ali Khan was killed and his army routed, Hannay is said to have distinguished himself leading “the Select Picket and the Sepoy Grenadiers”. Thereafter the whole of Rohilkhand fell to Shuja-ud-Duala, and was systematically plundered and occupied by his forces fuelling the outrage of growing numbers of British critics of Hastings’s policies in both Calcutta and London.

Opponents of Hastings on the Bengal council, who had been put in place following the introduction of the 1773 Act for the Regulation, formed a committee of inquiry into the complicity of British in the misdeeds perpetrated in Rohilkhand. Accordingly Colonel Leslie, Colonel Champion and Major Hannay were cross-examined “in the hope of fixing on Hastings, in conjunction with the Wazir the stigma of barbaric cruelty in its execution. The air was thick challenge and counter-challenge, insinuations, retorts. Ordinary business [of government] was suspended …”. In the midst of such political turmoil, Hannay, at a date unknown, secured the important appointment of Adjutant-General of the Army in India.

In the prolonged struggle between Warren Hastings and his opponents, Hannay proved a favourite agent of the Governor-General not least because of his depth of knowledge of Indian politics and courtly intrigues. In 1776 Hastings entrusted Hannay with a delicate mission to enlist the support of the warlord Najaf Khan, with whom he was personally acquainted, against a confederacy of Mahrattas, Sikhs and Rohillas suspected to be on the point of invading Oudh. Unfortunately on this occasion Hannay exceeded his instructions and advanced beyond limits of the Company’s jurisdiction in the hopes of gathering intelligence from Mirza Khalil, a confidential agent of Najaf Khan’s at Lucknow.

Evidence of the cordial nature of relationship between Hannay and his chief is further evinced in a letter from Hannay written 1778 in which he gifted him “a labada of twelve fatted deer” and also “two nightingales for Mrs Hastings” sent from the borders of Tibet. In 1778 Hastings granted Hannay permission to enter the service of Asaf-ud-Daulah, who succeeded Shuja-ud-Duala in 1775, as a commander of one of the Nawab’s four military bodies. It was not, however, an arrangement that suited the Nawab, as the Rohilla War debt was still outstanding and the additional cost of Hannay’s “useless” brigade was yet another cause of financial indebtedness to the East India Company. This post led in turn to Hannay’s most lucrative appointment, that of “farmer” of revenues in Gorakhpur district. On 4th September 1780 he was promoted Lieutenant–Colonel, although, as a disgusted Edmund Burke later told the House of Lords during the trial of Warren Hastings, Hannay was already using the rank.

As a tax collector Hannay, with a military force at his disposal, was ruthlessly efficient, producing twenty-two lakhs of rupees for the Nawab’s near empty coffers besides a fortune for himself. The harsh measures employed by Hannay included the imprisonment of hostages and beheading of uncooperative landowners, causing the country people to rise against him. According to Burke, the Nawab took steps to have Hannay removed on more than one occasion but thanks to Hastings’ intervention Hannay was permitted to continue. His record in Gorakkphur was unfavourably scrutinized in the harshest of terms by Burke and upheld as the cause of the insurrection in Oudh in 1781. Such, however, would be to ignore the intriguing of late Nawab’s widow, the Bahu Begum, and the late Nawab’s mother, Sadr un-nisa in encouraging Raja Chait Singh of Benares in his refusal to co-operate with the Company. Moreover a defence of Hannay’s methods may be found in the contemporary testimony of a subordinate, Abu Talib, who stated that Hannay achieved his goals not by embezzlement, but by “strict management and efficiency”.

When the forces of insurrection swept through Gorakhpur, some 4,000 tenants and employees of Hannay’s were slaughtered, causing Hastings dispatch Company troops to extract him. Hannay had no doubt who was to blame for the rebellion when he wrote, “The old begam [sic] does in the most open and violent manner support Chait Singh’s rebellion and insurrection, and the nawab’s mother’s accursed eunuchs are not less industrious than those of the Burra Begam.” In the wake of the 1781 rebellion, Hannay was finally dismissed by the Nawab, but not without his loot. Edmund Burke claimed that Hannay was known to be in debt before entering Asaf-ud-Daulah’s service, yet he returned to Calcutta “like a leech full of blood” in possession of a personal fortune of £300,000, of which £80,000 was in gold mohurs. Within a year of his return to the city, however, he died, unmarried, on 4th September 1782 at the age forty.

Bibliography: Bond, E.A. (ed.). Speeches of the Managers and Counsel in the Trial of Warren Hastings, Vols. I-IV, Longman, London, 1861;
Buckland, C.E. Dictionary of Indian Biography, 1968;
Burke, E. Articles of high crimes and misdemeanors against Warren Hastings, Esq. late Governor of Bengal: presented to the House of Commons on the 12th day of April 1786 by the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, J. Debrett, London, 1786;
Clark, A. Scandal: the sexual politics of the British constitution, Princeton University Press, 2004;
Davies, C.C. Warren Hastings and Oudh, Oxford University Press, 1939;
Grier, S.C. (ed.). The Letters of Warren Hastings to his Wife, Edinburgh, 1905;
Hodson, V.C.P. (ed.). List of the Officers of The Bengal Army, 1788-1834, London, 1928;
Weitzman, S. Warren Hastings and Philip Francis, Manchester University Press, 1929;
Wheater, W. A Record of the services of the Fifty First Foot, 1870.

Carved gem-stones in the Islamic World

This particular emerald is remarkable for its size and depth of colour, which is evenly saturated and transparent. The nasta’liq inscription is by a fine hand with minimal decorative ornament. It is unsurprising that such a fine stone would be converted into a piece of jewellery by a subsequent generation of the Hannay family in the 19th Century.

Carved and engraved emeralds were part of the riches of the Mughal treasuries. Although India was reportedly a source of emeralds in the early Islamic period, it is probable that the large Mughal carved emeralds came from the Colombian mines in South America, such as those of Muzo and Chivor, discovered by the Spaniards in the 16th Century. Some idea of the Mughal passion for emeralds can be gained from the gems now in the Iranian National Collection. Nadir Shah took large numbers of polished emerald beads with him when he sacked Delhi in 1739. Some of these bore inscriptions, including one with the name of Jahangir (V.B. Meen and A.D. Tushingham, Crown Jewels of Iran, Toronto, 1968, pp.46, 64-5; case 27, no.32).

The natural crystal habit of emerald, a variety of beryl, takes the form of hexagonal prisms, usually with flat terminations. The Mughals, as noted above, often polished emerald crystals to form large beads, thus retaining as much of the original stone as possible. To form a flat plaque as in the present piece, the crystals had to be cut. Flat slices could be cut across the hexagonal crystal, retaining the original outline, as is seen on one of the emeralds in the al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait. (Manuel Keene and Sue Kaoukji, Treasury of the World, London, 2001, p.141, no.12.24.)

Carved and engraved emeralds fall into two principal groups: those carved in relief and those with inscriptions cut into the surface of the stone. The latter group can be sub-divided into those with positive and negative inscriptions.

Emeralds with relief carving, in which the design has been left raised above the surface include a group with floral decoration dating from the late 16th through to the early 18th Centuries, with specimens in the al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait and elsewhere. These are un-inscribed. (Keene and Kaoukji 2001, pp.111-2.)

A further group of emeralds have inscriptions in naskh script engraved on them, using a diamond tipped stylus, reading in positive. The inscriptions are usually religious, including quotations from the Qur’an. (Keene and Kaoukji 2001, p.141, nos. 12.24. and 12.25.) A large carved emerald, dated AH 1107/ AD 1695-6 has a floral design in relief on one side, and an engraved Shi’a prayer inscribed in naskh on the other side. (Qatar 2002, pp.16-19, no.2.)

We would like to thank Michael Spink for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.


An Imperial Mughal spinel necklace @ Christie’s Geneva


GENEVA.- An Imperial Mughal spinel necklace with eleven polished baroque spinels for a total weight of 1.136,63 carats, during a press preview in Geneva, Switzerland, 01 April 2011. Three of the spinels are engraved with the name of its owner, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1569-1627), successor of Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great Akba Shah Jahangir Shah. The necklace is estimated to fetch between 1.500.000 and 2.500.000 Swiss Francs (1.150.000 and 1.920.000 Euro) at the Christies jewels sale on 18 May 2011 in Geneva. EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUN.


GENEVA.- An Imperial Mughal spinel necklace with eleven polished baroque spinels for a total weight of 1.136,63 carats, during a press preview in Geneva, Switzerland, 01 April 2011. Three of the spinels are engraved with the name of its owner, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1569-1627), successor of Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great Akba Shah Jahangir Shah. The necklace is estimated to fetch between 1.500.000 and 2.500.000 Swiss Francs (1.150.000 and 1.920.000 Euro) at the Christies jewels sale on 18 May 2011 in Geneva. EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUN.


GENEVA.- The engraved Persian names of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his grandson Alamgir are pictured on a spinel during an auction preview at Christies in Geneva April 1, 2011. The spinel is part of an Imperial Mughal necklace with eleven baroque spinels, weighing 1,136.63 carats, three stone are engraved with the name of its owner. It is expected to sell between CHF 1,500,000 and 2,500,000 (US$ 1,500,000 and 2,500,000) when it goes into auction May 18, 2011 in Geneva. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse.


GENEVA.- A Christies employee displays an Imperial Mughal spinel necklace, with eleven polished baroque spinels of a total weight of 1.136,63 carats, during a press preview in Geneva, Switzerland, 01 April 2011. Three of the spinels are engraved with the name of its owner, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1569-1627), successor of Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great Akba Shah Jahangir Shah. The necklace is estimated to fetch between 1.500.000 and 2.500.000 Swiss Francs (1.150.000 and 1.920.000 Euro) at the Christies jewels sale on 18 May 2011 in Geneva. EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUN.


Curators Claim “Lost” Emperor Portrait is Largest Mughal Painting Ever Seen


Jahangir holding a globe, Mughal, attributed to Abu’l-Hasan, 1617. Private Collection

LONDON.- Curators of the National Portrait Gallery‘s new exhibition The Indian Portrait 1560-1860 – which opens tomorrow – will reveal a six-foot, seventeenth-century life-size portrait of the Emperor Jahangir which they claim is the largest painting to come from the Mughal empire.

Jahangir holding a globe, dating from 1617, is opulently painted in gold and watercolour on cotton and includes relief jewellery. Apart from its appearance in an auction-house catalogue in 1995, the epic portrait now on view at the Gallery’s exhibition has never previously been seen.

It shows the Emperor seated on a European-style chair, his head surrounded by a radiating nimbus of light, balancing a globe in his right hand. These allude to his honorific name, Nur al-Din (‘Light of the Faith’) and to the name that he took on his accession to the throne, Jahangir, meaning ‘world-seizer’.

He is dressed in court garments, including a patterned sleeveless jacket and two patkas (sashes) around his waist. A lengthy Persian inscription written in a fine hand around the edge of the painting records that the portrait was painted in the twelfth year of Jahangir’s reign. It praises the Emperor and extols his victories, including his conquest of the Deccan in that year.

While the medium of watercolour and gold on cotton would have been familiar to Mughal artists, the exhibition’s curators Kapil Jariwala and Rosemary Crill say the portrait’s large scale and colouring derive from European oil painting. Large-scale European paintings were known at the Mughal court as early as 1602 while Jahangir is reported to have displayed English portraits behind his throne at the New Year festival in 1616-17.

The artist is not named, although his skill is praised in the verse. At the bottom right of the inscription is a small cartouche with the words ‘amal-i-kamtarin (‘work of the lowliest’), but the matching cartouche in the bottom left hand corner has been damaged so that the name of the artist is no longer visible. Abu’l Hasan, the highest ranking painter of the time, has been suggested as the artist.

The portrait is one of the star exhibits in the National Portrait Gallery’s new exhibition, the first to be dedicated to Indian portraits which brings together 60 works spanning three centuries from international public and private collections. Important loans include: two portraits from the private collection of artist Sir Howard Hodgkin; two pages from the Padshahnama made for Shah Jahan, now in the Royal Collection, and a pair of images of the Mughal courtier ‘Inayat Khan close to death, which have never previously been shown together in the UK. There are also striking portraits such as those of Amar Singh II of Mewar taking his ease, and the Maratha general Ram Rao Phalke, which call for a re-examination of portraiture in India.

The Indian Portrait 1560-1860 is curated by Rosemary Crill and Kapil Jariwala. Rosemary Crill is a Senior Curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Her publications include Chintz: Indian Textiles for the West and Marwar Painting. Kapil Jariwala is an independent curator whose recent publications include Cultural Ties and Film Fantastic: Indian Movie Poster Art

The Roman-Greeks-Egypt related Imperial artwork exhibition










The Driwan’s  Cybermuseum

The Roman-Greeks-Egypt related Imperila Artwork Exhibition

Roman Torso



A Roman Marble Torso of a God or an Athlete, Circa 1st Century B.C.-1st Century A.D. Estimate: $300,000 – 500,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s will offer two sales of ancient art that will take place on December 9- Antiquities Including Property from the Collection of Max Palevsky and Ancient Jewelry. The sales will feature over 300 lots that range from Predynastic Egypt through to the Byzantine period, including a highly important Cycladic marble reclining female figure. Highlights comprise an exquisite Roman marble torso of an emperor, an Egyptian red granite statue of a queen and an exceptional suite of three Roman gold-mounted sardonyx cameos.




An Egyptian Red Granite Statue Of Queen Late Ptolemaic Period, Circa 1ST Century B.C. Estimate: $200,000 – 300,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

An Egyptian red granite statue of a queen possibly depicting Cleopatra VII, striding forward in the traditional Egyptian stance. This queen in its present form may have originally been carved for an earlier queen, likely Karomama, the wife of the Dynasty XXII Pharaoh Osorkon II (924-909 B.C.), the statue was recarved in the Ptolemaic Period with the visage of a different queen, most likely Cleopatra VII.

Also included in the Egyptian section is a large Egyptian bronze falcon-headed Horus, Ptolemaic Period, 304-30 B.C (estimate: $150,000 – $250,000); and an Egyptian bronze standard finial, in the form of the jackal Wepwawet, New Kingdom to Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty XVII-XXV, 1550-712 B.C. (estimate: $200,000 – $300,000), finely executed with extreme elegance.



A Babylonian Gray Stone Kudurru Second Dynasty of Isin, Reign of Nebuchadnezzar I, 1126-1105 B.C. Estimate: $150,000 – 250,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

Leading the Near East selection of works is a Babylonian Gray Stone Kudurru, Second Dynasty of Isin, Reign of Nebuchadnezzar I, 1126-1105 B.C. A kudurru, or boundary stone, was set up in a temple to record a land grant by the king, which curses any later official who tried to undo the arrangement. Most date to the end of the Kassite period and continue into the early 1st millennium B.C.



A Mesopotamian Core-Formed Glass Bottle. Circa Mid to Late 15th Century B.C. Estimate: $150,000 – 250,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

Colored with a vibrant opaque cobalt blue hue, this cylindrical bottle is an exceptional example of an extremely early glass vessel. Like this glass bottle, the first glass vessels ever produced were made in northern Mesopotamia in the late 16th and early 15th centuries B.C. all by the core-form method.



A Cycladic marble reclining female figure, Name-piece of the Schuster Master, Early Cycladic II Circa 2400 B.C. Estimate: $3-5 million. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

Christie’s is pleased to offer a Cycladic marble reclining female figure, the most important Cycladic idol ever to come to auction. Estimated at $3-5 million, the folded-arm female figure is one of the most iconic sculptural types to have survived from antiquity. To date, there are only twelve known sculptures that have been recognized as the work of a single artist today known as the Schuster Master, named after the previous owner of the present work, Marion Schuster. Most of Schuster Master’s works represent the female in a pregnant state.



An Attic Red-Figured Kylix Attributed to The Colmar Painter, Circa 490 B.C. Estimate: $150,000 – 250,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

The tondo of this very fine cup, a late work by the artist, is thought to show a youth crowning a victor of the euandria, a tribal contest limited to Athenian citizens, which was part of the Panathenaic Games. The Colmar Painter was a late Archaic cup-painter whose style was developed under the influence of Onesimos and the Antiphon Painter, who very likely sat with them in the workshop of Euphronios.

Also among the Greek highlights is a Greek bronze corslet, circa late 7th- early 6th century B.C. (estimate: $80,000-120,000); a Greek bronze winged helmet of Chalcidian Type, late Classical Period, circa 4th century B.C. (estimate: $50,000-80,000); and a Greek parcel gilt silver mirror, Hellenistic Period, circa 2nd-1st century B.C. (estimate: $70,000-90,000)



A Roman Marble Emperor. Circa Late 1st–Early 2nd Century A.D. Estimate: $600,000 – 900,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

Among the extraordinary works from the Roman period is a Roman marble emperor circa Late 1st–Early 2nd Century A.D. (estimate: $600,000-900,000). This statue likely depicts the Emperor Trajan, representing him in full military regalia.


Property from the Collection of Max Palevsky A Roman Marble Head of Aphrodite. Circa 1st- 2nd Century A.D. Estimate: $150,000-250,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

Born in Chicago, Max Palevsky (1924-2010) was an innovator and forerunner in computers and systems technology. His work continues to influence computing technology today. The Collection of Max Palevsky comprises Antiquities, Impressionist and Modern Art, Post-War and Contemporary Art, 20th Century Decorative Arts and Design, Prints and Multiples, Japanese Art, Latin American Art, American Sculpture and Modern British Art. Offered in this sale are seven works from the Collection of Max Palevsky, including four remarkable Roman marble sculptures, including: a Roman marble Athena, circa 1st-2nd Century A.D (estimate: $200,000-300,000), a Roman marble head of Aphrodite, circa 1st-2nd Century A.D. (estimate: $150,000-250,000) and a Roman marble draped female Herm, circa 1st-2nd century A.D. (estimate: $250,000-350,000).



Three Roman Gold-Mounted Sardonyx Cameos. Circa 1st-2nd Century A.D. and 3rd Century A.D. Estimate: $150,000 – 250,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010 

It was common during the later Roman Empire for jewelers to re-use older stones in their work. The magnificent 1st century A.D. cameo centering this ensemble depicts a youthful Emperor Nero, whose memory had been officially condemned at the end of his tumultuous reign. This suggests that by the 3rd century, when the cameo was remounted, either that his physiognomy was no longer recognized, or that his popularity endured despite his condemnation.


A Byzantine Gold, Pearl, Emerald And Spinel Cross. Circa 6th-Early 7th Century A.D. Estimate: $40,000 – 60,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010 

The extremely high quality of workmanship and materials suggests that this cross was produced in an Imperial workshop in Constantinople. The emeralds are of the highest quality, imported from Egypt. The spinel is likely from Ceylon or Madagascar. The natural seed pearls are most likely from the Gulf or India.

Antiquities including Property from the Collection of Max Palevsky Dec 9 Ancient Jewelry Dec 9
Christie’s Rockefeller Galleries Dec 4- 9

Posté par Alain Truong à 11:23 – Archéologie & AntiquiitiesCommentaires [0]Rétroliens [0]
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13 septembre 2010

Phoenix Ancient Art S.A. @ XXVe Biennale des Antiquaires. Grand Palais


Statue équestre d’Alexandre le Grand. Art hellénistique, IIIe – IIe s. av. J.-C. Bronze. H 49 cm © Phoenix Ancien Art

Cette magnifique sculpture en bronze d’Alexandre le Grand, qui représente le jeune souverain dans toute sa puissance et sa grandeur, est un chef-d’oeuvre extrêmement rare, voire unique, de la période hellénistique. A l’origine, le personnage chevauchait sa monture – le célèbre Bucéphale – les cuisses serrées le long du dos de l’animal, les jambes écartées et ramenées en arrière. Le bras droit levé est plié avec la main positionnée de façon à tenir une lance, la célèbre sarissa macédonienne (la longue lance). Le jeune roi est vêtu d’une tunique courte par dessus laquelle il porte une cuirasse en bronze doublé de cuir, qui reproduit l’anatomie du corps humain de façon précise.

Il n’existe pas d’exact parallèle en bronze pour ce chef-d’oeuvre : seule quelques statues équestres comparables d’Alexandre sont attestées, comme celle de Begram, conservée au Musée National d’Afghanistan (II e s. av. J.-C., mais dont la qualité artistique est inférieure à celle de l’oeuvre illustrée) et celle découverte à Herculanum (Ier s. av. J.-C.), qui présente la composition équestre complète d’Alexandre le Grand chevauchant Bucéphale. Comme ces deux groupes, la statue en examen reflète probablement l’original du IVe siècle, qui était l’oeuvre de Lysippe, le seul sculpteur officiellement autorisé par Alexandre lui-même à exécuter ses portraits et ses statues.

Provenance : Ancienne collection particulière Monsieur T., Suisse, acquis dans les années 1950; collection particulière Davray, France, années 1970 ; collection particulière, Genève-Paris, acquis vers 1980-1981.


Dinos à figures noires avec chasse au sanglier attribué au Ribbon Painter. Art grec (Grèce orientale), VIe s. av. J.-C. (vers 540-520 av. J.-C.). Céramique. D 26 cm © Phoenix Ancien Art

Comme le cratère, le dinos était une des formes de vase autour desquelles gravitait le banquet grec (symposium), moment social fondamental dans la vie des hommes grecs : posé sur un pied souvent richement décoré et destiné à être placé physiquement au milieu de la salle à manger, le dinos contenait le mélange de vin et d’eau qui était servi aux convives.

Les scènes peintes dans la grande frise illustrent deux chasses au sanglier pleines d’entrain : la taille démesurée des animaux démontre le caractère extraordinaire des images. Le peintre s’est probablement inspiré de la chasse au sanglier la plus célèbre de la mythologie grecque, celle du sanglier de Calydon, souvent représentée sur les grands récipients de cette époque (dinoi, cratères, amphores). Ce mythe est bien connu et ancien, puisque présent déjà dans l’Iliade d’Homère.

Ce récipient appartient au Groupe Campana, un ensemble de quelques artistes grecs orientaux qui travaillaient probablement dans le monde étrusque. Le Ribbon Painter, qui a réalisé des vases d’une finesse remarquable, est la personnalité artistique principale du groupe : il doit son nom à la ligne qui sert de sol pour les scènes de chasse dont le tracé rappelle un ruban.

Provenance : Ancienne collection particulière, Grande-Bretagne, acquis au début des années 1980 ; collection particulière américaine, années 1980-1990 ; en prêt au Getty Museum, Los Angeles en 1994 – inv. L94.AA.11.19.


Grande figure masculine cycladique de type de Plastiras. Art grec cycladique. Age du Bronze Ancien / Cycladique Ancien II (vers 3000-2800 av. J.-C.). Marbre des Cyclades. H 29.2 cm © Phoenix Ancien Art

Cette extraordinaire figure masculine est un des plus beaux exemples connus d’« idoles » de type Plastiras (ce nom vient d’une nécropole découverte sur l’île de Paros) : l’homme est représenté debout et vu de face, les mains reposant sur son abdomen tandis que ses jambes sont légèrement écartées. De nombreuses traces de pigment rouge sont encore visibles près du visage et sur le cou. Une grande attention a été portée aux détails anatomiques, sculptés avec précision et plus de réalisme par rapport aux statuettes appartenant aux autres types de sculpture cycladique. Le type Plastiras, caractérisé par des proportions très particulières, précède chronologiquement les figurines dites canoniques inexplicablement, il compte un nombre de statuettes masculines nettement plus élevé que la moyenne.Selon l’analyse stylistique de Mme P. Getz-Gentle, la pièce illustrée ne serait pas une pièce isolée, mais pourrait être attribuée à un sculpteur plus avant-gardiste que ses contemporains dont on connaîtrait au moins une autre statuette masculine,aujourd’hui fragmentaire.

Provenance : Ancienne collection du Dr. Wladimir Rosenbaum, Galleria Casa Serodine, Ascona, Suisse; acquis auprès d’une collection particulière, Allemagne, avant 1962 ; ancienne collection P. Morigi, Magliaso, Suisse, acquis auprès de la galerie Casa Serodine, Ascona, en 1972-1973.

Avec ses galeries haut de gamme situées à New York et à Genève (Suisse), Phoenix Ancient Art est considéré par beaucoup d’experts comme l’un des principaux marchands mondiaux dans le domaine des antiquités rares et de grande qualité.

Les œuvres d’art de la Galerie proviennent des cultures qui constituent l’essence même de la civilisation occidentale, telles que la Mésopotamie, l’Egypte, la Grèce et la Rome classiques, l’Empire byzantin, l’Islam, l’Europe centrale et l’Asie du sud-ouest. Phoenix Ancient Art propose des pièces issues de tout le bassin méditerranéen, couvrant la vaste étendue située de la péninsule ibérique (incluant aujourd’hui l’Espagne et le Portugal) aux confins de la vallée de l’Indus (actuel Pakistan et berceau de la première grande civilisation d’Inde). Ces antiquités exceptionnelles représentent près de 7’000 ans d’histoire de l’humanité et datent du 6e siècle avant J.-C. au 14e siècle après J.-C.

Les œuvres de Phoenix Ancient Art ont fait l’objet d’acquisitions par d’importants musées à travers le monde, en vue d’être présentés au public. Parallèlement, les deux galeries comptent dans leur clientèle de nombreux particuliers qui acquièrent ces objets d’art tant pour leur enrichissement personnel que dans l’optique d’un investissement sérieux. Ces acheteurs se perçoivent d’ailleurs souvent comme les gardiens de ces superbes pièces. Etant donné l’âge des objets, ils abordent cette période d’appropriation relativement brève avec un sens aigu des responsabilités, conscients d’assurer la sauvegarde de ces oeuvres pour leur conservation, leur étude et leur exposition, jusqu’au jour où elles seront rachetées par un tiers ou par une autre institution.

En plus d’être l’un des plus éminents marchands d’antiquités de qualité muséale, Phoenix Ancient Art SA est leader dans son champ d’action quant aux garanties d’authenticité et de provenance des œuvres d’art. En effet, Phoenix a été un précurseur dans le développement des normes et des procédures qui permettent d’établir les valeurs à la fois artistique et historique des objets mis en vente. Ceux-ci sont acquis à l’intérieur d’un réseau spécialisé de collectionneurs privés, de commissaires-priseurs, de marchands et d’autres professionnels réputés, et sont ensuite soumis à l’examen minutieux d’équipe, de chercheurs indépendants, de savants et d’experts judiciaires qui utilisent les méthodes de vérification les plus pointues.

Officiellement constitué en société en 1995, Phoenix Ancient Art est une entreprise familiale de seconde génération originairement fondée en 1968 par feu Sleiman Aboutaam. Ali et Hicham, ses fils, ont été immergés dans le commerce d’antiquités depuis leur plus tendre enfance et ont repris l’affaire en 1998. Ils dirigent respectivement les galeries de Genève et de New York avec leur équipe de professionnels.

Plus récemment, Phoenix Ancient Art S.A. a renforcé sa présence sur des marchés tels que la Russie, en participant au World Fine Art Fair, à Moscou, et présent depuis trois ans au Salon des Antiquaires de Belgique, à Bruxelles, ainsi qu’au New York Fine Arts Fair. La Biennale représente un moment important dans l’échéancier 2010 de la galerie, et une unique opportunité de présenter un certain nombre d’objet qui seront à la hauteur de l’événe

The Chinese Imperial Artwork Collections Exhibtion Part Two










The Driwan’s  Cybermuseum



A small blue and white porcelain vase. Wanli mark and period. Of pear form with loop and mock ring handles above a pear-shaped body and tall foot, painted with a band of alternating dragons and phoenix and the six-character mark in regular script in a horizontal line on the outside edge of the cupped lip (restored). 6 3/4in (17cm) high. Sold for $26,840, Est. $6,000-8,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Porcelain, bronzes, paintings and jades kept buyers active all day at Bonhams’ Asian Works of Art auction in San Francisco on August 30th. As expected, Chinese works of art led the way, selling one by one to a roomful of Mainland Chinese buyers, eager to repatriate their cultural heritage.A traditionally strong ivory section kept spirits high for the hardstone carvings and jades. The highlight of the jade section was a calcified jade carving of a recumbent horse. Conservatively dated to the 20th century, the strong graceful lines of the delicate, but powerful carving combined with a stunning color of stone for tremendous effect. Potential buyers, both in the room and on the phones, kept the auctioneer at a galloping pace before the piece was finally hammered at $34,160.

A calcified jade carving of a recumbent horse. 20th century. Sold for US$34,160.  Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.
Another, among many highlights, was a finely carved coral branch—a skilled Chinese artisan executed a stunning array of tiny branches and flowers spewing from a vase, with even a little cat hiding amidst the fronds. This imaginative composition smashed all expectations, blooming into a $46,360 purchase price.
A carved coral branch. 20th century. Sold for US$46,360. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams. 
Traditionally a  symbol of the ethics and virtue of statecraft since the Shang and Zhou dynasties, Chinese bronzes and metalwork continued to be de rigeur for a new generation of art connoisseurs eager to prove their virtù. A bronze censer with elephant handles turned out to be a must-have for any new scholar-official in the making. With a base stamped with the honorific Xuande mark deemed essential by Ming dynasty manuals of good taste, this 18th/19th century version of a classic shape fetched a noble price, at $10,980.
A bronze censer with elephant handles. 18th/19th century. Heavily cast with thick walls of bombé form supporting the elephant handles and raised on a flared foot, the recessed base centered with a recessed square with effaced sixteen-character Xuande mark (surface soiling, mark removed); with reticulated wood cover. 13 1/2in (34cm) long. Sold for US$10,980. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams
Dated to a similar period of manufacture, two bronze seals with dragon finials, inscribed ‘the official who proffers and explicates the classics,’ were also sublime examples of Qing dynasty metal work, and were worth every ingot of their purchase price of $15,860.
Two bronze seals with dragon finials. Qing dynasty. The first of square form cast with the inscription Wang De zhi yin (seal of Wang De) and the second of rectangular shape with the inscription jing yan jiang guan (‘the official who proffers and explicates the classics,’ a civil rank within the ruling bureaucracy), the finials similarly cast as a reticulated dragon emerging from clouds. 2 1/4in (5.5cm) high, 1 1/2 and 2 1/8in (4 and 5cm) long. Provenance: E & J Frankel Collection, New York. Sold for $15,860, Est. $4,000-6,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.
The mainstay of the Chinese section was devoted to one of the pinnacle achievements of Chinese art and technology: porcelain. Prices were consistently strong with a small blue and white porcelain vase, mark and period of Wanli, one of the many standouts. This rare textbook Wanli example with sinewy dragons rendered in deep cobalt blue brought $26,840.
Reflecting the higher degree of control of both paste and glaze quality in the Qing, a blue and white rouleau vase, was decorated with a tightly composed masterwork of a figural tableau rendered in precisely layered hues. This stylistic opposite of the Wanli piece proved irresistible to buyers as well, bringing a majestic $46,360.
A blue and white porcelain rouleau vase. 19th century. Potted with a cupped rim and cylindrical neck encircled by a raised ridge separating delicately drawn linear patterns, the elongated body displaying a continuous imperial audience scene set within a palace garden. 17 3/4in (45cm) high. Sold for US$46,360. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams
Japanese, Korean and Southeast Asian art also performed well. A painting of Bodhidharma, attributed to the 16th/17th century Japanese artist Kano Koi, was a suitably iconoclastic portrayal of the gruff Indian founder of the Zen school of Buddhism. A telephone bidder helped this piece achieve an enlightening price of $7,320.
Attributed to Kano Koi (c. 1569-1636), Bodhidharma. Hanging scroll, ink on paper; depicting the bearded patriarch in bust portrait, bearing the seal Koi, beneath a four-line Chinese inscription signed Takuan [sho]ro with two seals and dated Kan’ei mizunoe-saru shoto (early winter, 1632); together with an authentication slip by Okura Kosai (1795-1862), dated in accordance with 1847. 39 1/4 x 18 3/8in (99.7 x 46.7cm). Sold for US$7,320.  Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams
A two-panel Nihonga school screen, Taisho/Showa period represented a more exotic subject matter of two Indian beauties, which brought a strong price of $5,490. Both of these items will be enticin appetizers for the sale of Fine Japanese Art, as well as the Sartin Collection of Asian Art, featuring fine Himalayan and South Asian Art, both to be offered in our New York showrooms on the 13th of September.
Nihonga school (Taisho/Showa period), Indian beauties. Large two panel screen, ink, colors, and gold on paper; depicting two women wearing richly patterned costumes and elaborate jewelry partially rendered in gold moriage, the seated right figure smoking a hookah while the other reclines on the floral carpet near an earthenware pot and three pineapples, a pair of butterflies flitting through the air above; sealed (illegible) (split hinge). 73 3/4 x 77 1/2in (184.8 x 196.9cm). Sold for US$5,490.  Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams
Bonhams will hold its next San Francisco-based Asian Decorative Arts sale on the 15th of November. Highlights will be announced in the weeks preceding the sale. Consignments are invited.

The Chinese Imperial Artwork Collections Exhibition part One










The Driwan’s  Cybermuseum







Important imperial style ‘double dragon’ white jade seal. Qing dynasty ‘treasure of concern over phenomena at eighty’ . Photo courtesy Freeman’s

Philadelphia, PA) September 10 – At approximately 3:15 this afternoon, with a packed gallery and over 15 phone lines, Freeman’s experienced record success when an important Chinese imperial-style ‘double dragon’ white jade seal was realized at just over $3.5 million. This Qing Dynasty seal, with a pre-sale estimate of $30,000-50,000, was sold to an in-room bidder by auctioneer and Asian department head Robert Waterhouse.

“The ‘imperial-style’ jade seal was, of course, very popular at exhibition and we knew it was going to do well, but only the bidders could determine whether or not it was truly imperial. The multi-million winning bid was an over-whelming validation for us,” said Asian Arts Associate Specialist Richard Cervantes,

Freeman’s President Paul Roberts commented from the phone-bid table, soon after the hammer fell, “this is not far from the total turnover for Freeman’s 12 years ago. The sale will have realized over $5 million by the time we are through, thus setting a new turnover record in a single day.”

Roberts may or may not have anticipated that results would in fact surpass $7 million.

Says Samuel “Beau” Freeman, Chairman, “We couldn’t be happier. It just goes to show that Philadelphia is an international hub, and that Freeman’s can produce results meeting and exceeding our competitors for choice pieces. It’s thrilling to be a part of an auction like this.”


Important imperial style ‘double dragon’ white jade seal. Qing dynasty ‘treasure of concern over phenomena at eighty’

A celadon and russet jade seal. 17th century



 “The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City”


Panel (hanging). From Yanghe Jingshe Cloisonné and zitan, 57 ¼ x 29 ¾ inches (145.5 x 75.5 cm).

 Objects and artwork from the Forbidden City’s hidden inner sanctum, a sealed off compound built in high luxury for the Chinese emperor’s retirement, will be unveiled in Driwancy7bermuseum now.

“The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City”

The show features 90 objects from the 27-building garden sanctuary, built at Emperor Qianlong’s request in the northeast corner of Beijing’s Forbidden City.

Known as the Qianlong garden, the compound was supposed to be for the emperor’s retirement, but he never relinquished the throne and the space remained unchanged and unoccupied since its 1776 completion.

It is made up of separate buildings meant for different activities, such as the “supreme chamber of cultivating harmony,” or the “building of luminous clouds.”

This secret garden, which curators said showcased the epitome of late 18th century Chinese skill, has remained closed to the public since it was built. It has been undergoing restoration since 2001, with expected completion in 2019.

Curators said on Monday that the exhibition was a unique opportunity to view the objects since they would likely return to China never to travel again.

“The garden was meant to be a lasting testimony to the efficacy of his (the emperor’s) rule,” said Maxwell Hearn, the curator of the exhibition. “Every surface was embellished with the finest workmanship, the most precious materials imaginable.”

The show regroups Buddhist icons, murals, furniture, decorative objects and painted scrolls that have been restored.

But as much as the Qianlong garden embodied the height of late 18th century Chinese craft, it also showcases various Western influences.

Traditional motifs of the bamboo, plum tree blossoms and pine trees in one representation are juxtaposed to lavishly decorated screens inlaid with glass, a Western import. Western techniques of proportion and representation are incorporated into some of the scrolls.

But beyond decorative aspects Western influence was kept somewhat at bay, Hearn said. Although every European country competed for his favor in order to get access to trade routes, the emperor failed to grasp Europe’s rise.

“Because this emperor was so surrounded by the wealth of his environment, he failed to understand the importance of bridging East and West,” Hearn said. “That was the myopic vision of the emperor.”. (Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Patricia Reaney)


Portrait of the Qianlong Emperor (1711–1799). Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk; Image: 99 5/8 x 59 1/16 in. (253 x 150 cm); Overall: 148 7/16 x 78 3/8 in. (377 x 199 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This grandly scaled depiction of the Qianlong Emperor is one of several nearly identical formal portraits that were made for ritual use in the Imperial Ancestral Hall and elsewhere in the palace. In keeping with Chinese conventions of physiognomy, Qianlong’s face is fully frontal; only his arms break with the otherwise rigid symmetry of his pose. However, the subtle use of light and shade to model his facial features as well as the folds of his robe reveal the influence of Western-style pictorial techniques, which Qianlong favored for portraiture and other documentary or commemorative purposes.

Despite his idealized features, the emperor’s advancing age is quite apparent. However, seated on a golden dragon throne and dressed in his robes of state, his lifesize portrait still conveys an imposing sense of imperial majesty.


Portrait of the Qianlong Emperor in Ancient Costume. Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk; Image: 98 13/16 x 53 15/16 in. (251 x 137 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

The Qianlong Emperor was a master in using Western-style illusionistic images of himself in different guises to create alternate personae. Here, the youthful emperor had himself portrayed as a cultured Chinese scholar. Sitting in his study appointed with classical Chinese-style furniture, he is poised, brush in hand, to transcribe a poem onto a banana leaf. The only detail that distinguishes him from a traditional scholar is his ornate robe covered with auspicious motifs of flowers and cranes in bright, contrasting colors.


Interior Scene. From the Supreme Chamber for Cultivating Harmony (Yanghe Jingshe). Ink and color on silk; Image: 10 ft. 8 in. x 10 ft. (325.1 x 304.8 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

Introduced to China by Jesuit missionaries, European-style perspectival paintings were appreciated not only as a playful entertainment but also as a device for “expanding” the intimately scaled rooms the Qianlong Emperor favored for his personal living quarters. In addition to using realistic, Western-style portraiture techniques to present himself in different roles—Manchu warrior, Chinese scholar, or Buddhist sage—the emperor delighted in using Western pictorial devices to create illusions such as this trompe-l’oeil (“fool the eye”) mural, which would have been painted by a Chinese artist from the imperial workshop who had been trained by European missionary artists.

The mural offers a true-to-life glimpse into many of the rooms within the Qianlong Garden. In the foreground an ornate doorframe set with pictorial inserts—an example of which is on display in the adjacent gallery—frames a view of an elegantly coiffured lady offering flowers to a child. Resting upon an altar table set against the back wall are a bronze ritual vessel, bound books, and vases of bronze and porcelain; behind the table hang three paintings. The central landscape is a hanging scroll so tall that its mounting has been attached to the ceiling, thus underscoring the small scale of the residential rooms. Flanking the scroll are two vertical paintings that have been pasted directly onto the wallpaper—another typical decorative strategy of the era. Side entrances to the room are concealed behind blue-and-green cloth curtains.

Very few examples of trompe-l’oeil murals from the 1700s have survived in situ in the Forbidden City. This example is one of three such paintings that were recently cleaned and relined with supportive backing papers by Palace Museum conservators.


Partitions and Entablature. From the Belvedere of Viewing Achievements (Fuwangge). Purple sandalwood (zitan) and cloisonné with inset paintings and calligraphies on silk; Overall: 12 ft. 1/2 in. x 11 ft. 3 1/16 in. x 25 9/16 in. (367 x 343 x 65 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This assembly framed one of the thrones facing each of the four cardinal directions on the first floor of the Belvedere of Viewing Achievements, the Qianlong Garden’s largest and tallest building. In the late 1800s, the powerful Dowager Empress Cixi (1835–1908), as mother of the Tongzhi emperor (r. 1861–1875), was entitled to live in the Tranquility and Longevity Palace and enjoy the Qianlong Garden. She redecorated some of the buildings for her sixtieth birthday celebration in 1895. She replaced the original paintings and calligraphies on these partitions with works by her own court artists and officials.


Ornamental Lingbi Rock. From the second courtyard, before the Hall of Fulfilling Original Wishes (Suichutang). Limestone; H. 25 1/2 in. (64 cm); W. 44 1/8 in. (112 cm); D. 15 3/4 in. (40 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

The Qianlong Emperor was an aficionado of rocks. This example is one of four placed on pedestals in the second courtyard of the garden.

In China, connoisseurship of rocks was comparable to that of knowledge of painting and calligraphy. Favored specimens were prized for their dynamic forms, numerous perforations, and wrinkled surfaces. Larger rocks were often placed on pedestals in the manner of sculptures; smaller examples were displayed indoors on wooden stands. This specimen, with a striking jagged silhouette and deep-fissured surface, embodies a popular maxim: “Although they are really just fragments of mountains and chunks of stone, they should have a feel of the wilderness about them.”


Panel. From the Studio of Exhaustion from Diligent Service (Juanqinzhai). Sandalwood, jade, lapis lazuli, malachite, purple sandalwood (zitan), and glass; H. 43 1/2 in. (110.5 cm); W. 75 3/4 in. (192.3 cm); D. 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

The plum, which blooms in late winter—about the time of the Chinese New Year—traditionally heralds the coming of spring. It symbolizes purity and the ability to thrive untainted even in harsh times. For fifteen hundred years, the flower in all its stages of growth has been a common motif in Chinese painting and poetry. Many furnishings in the Qianlong garden incorporate representations of blossoming plum delicately wrought from precious materials. This panel, depicting a thousand-year-old tree in full bloom, was presented as a gift to the emperor with wishes for longevity.


Panel. From the Supreme Chamber for Cultivating Harmony (Yanghe Jingshe). Cloisonné and purple sandalwood (zitan); Overall: 57 1/4 x 29 3/4 in. (145.4 x 75.6 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

In 1776, the Qianlong Emperor held a grand banquet to celebrate the completion of the Tranquility and Longevity Palace (Ningshougong) and its garden. The event coincided with the New Year and the eighty-fifth year of his mother’s birth. Musical and operatic performances took place on a new three-story outdoor stage—the largest in the Forbidden City—called the Pleasant Sounds Belvedere, which is located just beside the Qianlong Garden. One year later, his mother passed away and, as a memorial, the emperor commissioned this sumptuous panel depicting the celebration.

Lush trees and exaggerated mountainlike rockeries encircle a courtyard where courtiers look on as actors perform on an open-air stage. Low Manchu-style tables set with small dishes for the banquet line the left side of the compound. Spiral and floral patterns surrounding the inscription enhance the golden sky. Colorful buildings express the exuberant feel of the newly minted palace and its garden.


Qianlong Emperor (1711–1799; r. 1736–95), Calligraphic Inscription, dated 1776. From the Belvedere of Viewing Achievements (Fuwangge). Ink on paper; Image: 37 x 73 1/4 in. (94 x 186 cm). Overall with mounting: 38 3/8 x 76 in. (97.5 x 193 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

An avid calligrapher, the Qianlong Emperor developed a distinctive style characterized by regularity and restraint. Inscribed on gold-painted paper made specifically for the court, this text describes his anticipation of retirement.


Wei Heling (act. late 18th century), Landscape. From the Supreme Chamber for Cultivating Harmony (Yanghe Jingshe). Hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper; Image: 79 15/16 x 29 3/4 in. (203 x 75.6 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

Many buildings within the Qianlong Garden were decorated with calligraphies or paintings that were pasted directly onto the wallpapered surfaces of interior walls—a practice that became especially popular in the 1700s. In its original location, this tall vertical panel functioned as a fake door (jiamen); a cloth valance above it furthered the illusion that the landscape was painted on a curtain covering a doorway.

The landscape, by a little-known court painter, evokes antique prototypes as reinterpreted by Wang Hui (1632–1717), the early Qing artist whose painting style became the orthodox model for later court painters.


Brush pot. Jade; H. 5 7/8 in. (15 cm); W. 5 1/2 in. (14 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing


Container. Carved cinnabar lacquer; includes album of forty two paintings and calligraphies by the Qianlong Emperor; H. 6 7/8 in. (17.5 cm); W. 6 5/16 in. (16 cm); D. 3 15/16 in. (10 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This carved lacquer container for storing miniature paintings, among them the two scrolls on view in the exhibition, has been fashioned in the shape of several handscrolls and albums piled atop a stand. Such cleverly designed boxes concealing other works of art were a favorite amusement of the Qianlong Emperor.


Throne. From the Supreme Chamber for Cultivating Harmony (Yanghe Jingshe). Purple sandalwood (zitan), bamboo, jade, semiprecious stones, and lacquer; H. 38 1/2 in. (98 cm); W. 46 1/4 in. (117.5 cm); D. 33 1/16 in. (84 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This throne incorporates the collaborative efforts of many different craftsmen. Furniture makers designed the basic mortise-and-tenon structure, while lacquer specialists and painters decorated the panels with gold and colored lacquer. Bamboo experts sliced stalks into threads that they then dyed and arranged into geometric marquetries; they also removed the inner skin of the bamboo to create a flat, carvable surface, which was adhered to the seat in a pattern of plum blossoms floating on cracked ice. Woodworkers fashioned tropical purple sandalwood into branches and stems, while stonemasons shaped blossoms of semiprecious stones and mother-of-pearl for the backrest. As a final touch, jade carvers created dragon ornaments for the front corners of the seat.

As artisans skilled in these traditional techniques were needed for conservation, authorities at the Palace Museum sent notices to cultural bureaus across the country. He Fuli, an elderly craftsman from Dongshan County, Zhejiang Province, knew how to fabricate bamboo-thread marquetry, and he traveled to Beijing to assist and teach others the craft. Together with Palace Museum lacquer specialists and expert jade carvers, they restored the throne to its original state.


Screen of Sixteen Double-Sided Panels. From the Building of Luminous Clouds (Yunguanglou). Purple sandalwood (zitan), lacquer, jade, and gold paint; Each panel with legs: H. 84 in. (213.4 cm); W. 28 in. (71.1 cm); D. 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm).. Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This set of sixteen jade-inlaid panels depicting luohans, the enlightened disciples of the Buddha, was built into a niche within of the Building of Luminous Clouds. When Palace Museum conservators removed the screen for restoration, they discovered that the backs of the panels were sumptuously decorated with symbolic botanical motifs that had been hidden for more than two hundred years. The bizarre figures on the screen are based on paintings of the sixteen luohans by the monk-artist Guanxiu (832–912), who claimed that the images had come to him in a dream. The figures’ grotesque forms are perhaps meant to convey the idea that one cannot judge someone’s spiritual achievement by external appearance alone.

The Qianlong Emperor saw these paintings in Hangzhou while on his southern inspection tour of 1757 and had a court artist make copies. Inspired by the emperor’s visit, the temple abbot had artisans replicate the paintings in stone so that rubbings of the images could be disseminated. Years later, a provincial governor sought to curry favor with the emperor by commissioning this screen after the rubbings. Consequently the emperor ordered the construction of a special niche to house the gift within the Building of Luminous Clouds.


Mandala. Cloisonné H. 22 1/2 in. (57 cm); Diam. 19 in. (48.2 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

A mandala is an abstract diagram of the universe used in Buddhist meditation. While they most commonly take the form of painted or woven hangings, the Qianlong Emperor commissioned a number of luxurious three-dimensional cloisonné mandalas.


Hanging Panel with Niches. From the Building for Enjoying Lush Scenery (Cuishanglou). Purple sandalwood (zitan), painted and gilt clay, and colors on silk; Overall: 63 x 36 5/8 x 2 15/16 in. (160 x 93 x 7.4 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

The Qing dynasty emperors adhered to a form of Esoteric Buddhism practiced in Mongolia and Manchuria as well as in Tibet. In this highly structured panel, three-dimensional painted-clay figures (known in Tibetan as tscha tscha) represent Buddhist deities, teachers, and other beings. The two largest figures depict the emperor as an emanation of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Enlightened Wisdom, and as a chakravartin (literally, “wheel-turning-king”), a just ruler who brings peace and prosperity to his subjects. In the large round aperture in the sky above the emperor is his Buddhist mentor Rolpay Dorje, and farther above is Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), founder of the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism to which the emperor subscribed. The finely delineated building, flowers, rocks, and mountains reflect Chinese painting traditions and suggest that the shrine was produced in the imperial workshops.


Statues of Amitabha and Stand. From the Building for Enjoying Lush Scenery (Cuishanglou). Gilt copper and purple sandalwood (zitan); Overall: H. 57 22 7/16 in. (57 cm); W. 39 9/16 in. (100.5 cm); D. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This set of five gilt statues of the Amitabha Buddha as well as the purple sandalwood altar are part of the paraphernalia used in ritual practices that took place in the Building for Enjoying Lush Scenery.


Shrine and Statue of Jingang (Vajrayaksk). From the Building for Enjoying Lush Scenery (Cuishanglou).. Painted Yingde stone, gilt copper, silver, and glass; Shrine: H. 15 5/8 in. (39.7 cm); W. 11 in. (28 cm); D. 7 1/2 in. (19 cm); Statue: H. 5 1/8 in. (13 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

Contained within an elaborately worked silver shrine, this statue of a Tibetan Buddhist guardian deity was carved from a stone quarried in Guangdong Province, which was then painted and embellished with a gilt-copper crown and implements.


Window. From the Three Friends Bower (Sanyouxuan). Purple sandalwood (zitan) and glass; H. 55 1/4 in. (140.4 cm); W. 80 5/8 in. (204.8 cm); D. 3 9/16 in. (9 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This massive window frame is carved with representations of pine, bamboo, and blossoming plum—the Three Friends of Winter. The window is typical of the extravagant use of luxurious materials that went into the construction of the garden. Carved from precious purple sandalwood (zitan), the middle of this panel was slotted to receive a large sheet of glass, a rare commodity in the eighteenth century. Sitting in the Three Friends Bower, the Qianlong Emperor would have thus been able to gaze through this window to the rockeries beyond.


Chair. From the Purification Ceremony Pavilion (Xishangting). Rootwood; H. 41 1/2 in. (105.4 cm); W. 23 1/2 in. (59.7 cm); D. 29 in. (73.7 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

Chinese paintings from as early as the eleventh century depict Buddhist and Daoist figures seated on rustic rootwood chairs as a way of suggesting their indifference to worldly goods and their synchrony with the natural forms of the cosmos. By the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), members of the urban elite had begun to commission furniture carved to resemble naturally contorted roots. Imperial inventories record that rootwood chairs and tables furnished the Purification Ceremony Pavilion in the garden’s first courtyard. The name and design of this structure refers to ancient purification traditions associated with a poetry-writing contest in which players would sit by a stream, drink from wine cups floated down a waterway, and write poems. In the Qianlong Garden, an abstracted watercourse—connected to a well—was channeled into a stone floor so that the emperor and his companions could reenact the tradition.


Pair of Screens. From the Three Friends Bower (Sanyouxuan). Purple sandalwood (zitan), glass, jade, agate, and crystal; Each: H. 82 11/16 in. (210 cm); W. 41 3/4 in. (106 cm); D. 23 5/8 in. (60 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

These imposing screens epitomize the high level of craftsmanship, as well as the lavish use of materials, found throughout the Qianlong Garden. They also demonstrate how all the furnishings in a given space might be dedicated to a single auspicious theme, such as the “three friends of winter”—traditional emblems of a long, vigorous life. The incorporation of glass into the panels reveals the emperor’s delight with the material, newly imported from Europe.


Vase. Porcelain; H. 13 3/8 in. (34 cm); Diam. 4 13/16 in. (12.3 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This polychromatic vase is decorated with a narrative scene of four old men conversing under a pine tree in a garden setting. It may refer to the four historical figures collectively known as the Hoary Four of Mount Shang, renowned scholars who spent most of their lives in reclusion due to their discontent with the political situation during the dynastic change from Qin (221–206 B.C.) to Han (206 B.C.–A.D. 220). They have been esteemed as models of the reclusive literati ideal. The vividly rendered figures and landscape motifs in multiple colors attest to the technical proficiency of ceramists during the Qianlong period.


Pair of Cabinets. From the Bower of Purest Jade (Yucuixuan). Wood, lacquer, and gilding; Each: H. 46 7/8 in. (119 cm); W. 34 7/16 in. (87.5 cm); D. 14 3/16 in. (36 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

The Qianlong Emperor’s interest in foreign techniques and aesthetics was not limited to Europe. Like his father and grandfather, he was also intrigued by certain Japanese arts, particularly the styling of gold designs on black lacquer. The decoration on these cabinets includes depictions of Japanese-style figures enjoying a spring picnic by a river.


Partitions. From the Building for Enjoying Lush Scenery (Cuishanglou). Purple sandalwood (zitan), bamboo, and painted glass; Overall: 77 15/16 x 77 3/16 x 2 15/16 in. (198 x 196 x 7.5 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

The frosted glass panels in these interior partitions, painted to resemble embroidered silk, allow light to enter a room even when they are closed.


Vase.. Porcelain with malachite glaze; H. 12 3/16 in. (31 cm); Diam. of base 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This lavishly decorated vase features a realistically rendered sash tied at the ends. Its trompe-l’oeil accuracy rivals that of European murals painted according to rules of mathematical perspective.


Pair of Table Screens. From the Building for Enjoying Lush Scenery (Cuishanglou). Purple sandalwood (zitan), glass, silver foil, and paint; Each: 26 3/8 x 28 3/8 in. (67 x 72 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

Just as European consumers delighted in chinoiserie, including fanciful depictions of Chinese people and architecture, this pair of screens showing a European-style landscape and cityscape attests to the Qianlong Emperor’s similar fascination with foreign subjects.

While European traders in the southern port of Guangzhou (called Canton by Europeans) commissioned Chinese artists to reproduce reverse glass paintings such as these for export, these two examples were, apparently, produced for the Chinese court. Such screens, backed with silver foil, would have served to both protect and reflect the light from desk lamps or candles.


Clock. Gilt copper, enamel, and glass; H. 41 5/16 in. (105 cm); W. 24 13/16 in. (63 cm); 22 1/16 in. (56 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

The Qianlong emperor was very fond of European clocks with their intricate internal mechanisms. Europeans, eager to gain his favor, brought him numerous complex examples, which he included among his collection of traditional Chinese masterpieces.


Table Screen. From the Building for Enjoying Lush Scenery (Cuishanglou). Purple sandalwood (zitan), glass, silver foil, and paint; Overall: H. 41 9/16 in. (105.5 cm); W. 25 3/8 in. (64.5 cm); D. 12 5/8 in. (32 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This table screen, which served to protect a lamp or candle from drafts, features a European couple in a landscape—a clear indication of the Qianlong Emperor’s fascination with foreign motifs and styles. It was probably a gift from an official in Guangzhou (called Canton by Westerners), where European traders had long commissioned Chinese artists to reproduce European-style reverse-glass (“eglomise”) paintings for export to Europe. This ancient Roman technique involves drawing onto the back of a piece of glass and then laying down a sheet of silver leaf, which turns unpainted areas into a mirrorlike surface.


Throne with Footstool. From the Belvedere of Viewing Achievements (Fuwangge). Purple sandalwood (zitan) and cedar; Throne: H. 44 1/8 in. (112 cm); W. 50 3/16 in. (127.5 cm); D. 31 5/16 in. (79.6 cm); Base: H. 20 1/2 in. (52 cm); Foot stool: H. 6 1/8 in. (15.6 cm); W. 25 1/4 in. (64.2 cm); D. 12 3/4 in. (32.3 cm). Lent by the Palace Museum, Beijing

This grand throne is lavishly decorated with intricate curves along its top edges. The finely carved ornamentation on the back and side panels depicts deer in a mountain landscape with pine trees, leafy bushes, and grass. While the pine symbolizes longevity and the virtue of perseverance, the deer is associated with Buddhist paradise and is a homophone for the Chinese character for “successful career.”


A fine Imperial yellow-ground silk Throne Cushion Cover. Qing dynasty, 18th century


A fine Imperial yellow-ground silk Throne Cushion Cover. Qing dynasty, 18th century. Photo Sotheby’s

finely embroidered in polychrome silks with a central medallion of nine peaches surrounded by cranes in flight amidst wispy two-tone blue clouds, each grasping a bamboo stalk in its beak, the border with rolling and cresting waves centered on pierced rocks and celestial peaks, all on a muted gold ground. Height 50 in., 127 cm; Width 51 in., 129.5 cm. Estimate 70,000-90,000 USD

PROVENANCE: Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1989.

EXHIBITED: Spink & Son Ltd., The Minor Arts of China IV, London, 1989, p. 111, cat. no. 148.

Fine Classical Chinese Paintings, the first dedicated New York auction in this category for over a decade. The sale is made up of 80 diverse works from the Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as a small selection of modern and contemporary works that were executed clearly in the classical manner. The pre-sale exhibition opens on Friday 9 September.

The sale is led by Running Script Transcription of an Epitaph, written for Minister Chen Xinyi by Dong Qichang who is known as the most influential artist of his time (lot 47, est. $200/300,000).* The eight-leaf album, which has been expertly kept in its original 1850s mountings, was appraised by its then famed collector Kong Guangtao as “…genuinely stately and thoughtful in spirit, so fluid and elegant as if executed with divine power”.


Dong Qichang (1555-1636), Running Script Transcription of an Epitaph, written for Minister Chen Xinyi .  Photo: Sotheby’s

igned Dong Qichang, inscribed, with two artist’s seals, zong bo xue shi, dong shi xuan zai, and ten collector’s seals, ting yu, zhuang lie bo zhang, wu chen jin shi shi xue ling nan, ceng zai jing yin cao tang, wu lin weng shi shen ding ji, song nian mu shang, tian nan sheng yi, nan hai kong guang tao shen ding jin shi shu hua yin, shao tang han mo, yue xue lou jian cang jin shi shu hua tu ji zhi zhang, shao tang mo yuan. Inscribed by Li Tingyu and Kong Guangtao; ink on paper, album of eight leaves ; each 35.2 by 31.7 cm. 13 7/8 by 12 1/2 in. (8). Estimate 200,000-300,000 USD

PROVENANCE: Famous 19th Century Collector Kong Guangtao

Chang Pi-han (Zhang Bihan), Piedmont, California

LITERATURE: Yuexueloushuhualu, Vol. 4, Kong Guangtao (ed.), Preface 1861, p. 125-127

Dong Qichang xinian, Ren Daobin (ed.) (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, March 1988), p. 197.

Floating Studio: the Role of Water Travel in Chinese Calligraphy and Painting , Fu Shen, published in Meishushi yanjiu jikan (Journal of the Study of Art History), no. 15 (Taipei, 2003), p. 273.


Artist’s inscription: 

The Vice Minister of Justice makes this calligraphy of Epitaph a present for Minister Chen Xinyi.

[Text of the stele not recorded.]

Granted the titles of Tongyi Daifu based on the Jinshi rank as well as Minister of Zhanshifu at the Ministry of Rites, assisting the affairs at the imperial household, and also Academician Reader-in-waiting at the Hanlin Academy, who later received the orders to compile and edit the historical records from the former two dynasties and document the imperial chronicles. The Lecturer of the Imperial Household Dong Qichang.

Collector’s inscriptions:

[Li] I have reviewed quite a lot of Xiangguang’s writing. However, I have never seen such an unusual and peculiar piece. Both the present work’s calligraphy and text are wonderfully refined, probably equaling the stylistic quality of Zhengzuo tie and Erji gao. People are so enchanted by these two masterpieces that they might not realize how similar they are to each other. Master Chen Xinyi is an honest and thoughtful man, who was a great literatus with status in Ming times. After his passing, his virtues and reputation were even more highly regarded by everyone. Generally speaking, people skilled in calligraphy are usually willing to write for others. It’s wonderful that this is such a powerful piece. After reviewing it several times, I simply became more impressed and in awe. The time is the end of the tenth month of the fall, in the year dingyou (1837). I was shown this album and asked to give an inscription. I may not be well-versed in the field of calligraphy, but upon opening the work, I can determine that this is a piece of the finest quality in the tradition of Jin and Tang, even though I cannot expound upon such distinct features at great length.Please correct me immediately so that I know whether my remarks are appropriate or not.

Recorded by Runtang Li Tingyu.

[Kong] Over my entire life, I’ve already reviewed several hundred examples of Wenmin’s work. Many of them appear unnecessarily fast and slick. But this piece is genuinely stately and thoughtful in spirit, so fluid and elegant as if executed with divine power. Compared with the brushwork of Zuowei tie, one can see that it is written in the style of Zhao Mengfu combined with the basic structure of Yan Zhenqing, which seems to further enhance the remarkable presence of the writing. This is not a regular work by Dong, many of which do not even come close to this piece. I have recently examined another example of Dong’s writing, Shengzhu de xiancheng song, which was once in Emperor Qianlong’s Shiqu imperial collection. The writing of that piece displays grace and poise, while this present one possesses vigorous and assertive spirit; both of them can be regarded the best of Dong’s calligraphic works. The day of Chongjiu Festival, the ninth day of the ninth month of the year wuwu, reign of Xianfeng (October 15, 1858). Intoxicated by drinking the chrysanthemum wine, I washed the inkstone in order to try out my new brushes. Written in Yuexue lou studio by Nanhai Kong Guangtao.

Chen Yumo, literary name Mengwen, studio name Xinyi, a native of Renhe, Zhejiang province. A Jinshi in the year Chen Yumo, literary name Mengwen, studio name Xinyi, a native of Renhe, Zhejiang province. A Jinshi in the year the office of Supervisor of Jiangxi province and retired as the Vice Minister for the Ministry of Justice. He died in the eighth month of the year 1622.

Both Ren Daobing and Fu state that this work was executed in the eighth lunar month of the year dingchou of the Wanli reign (1577), he was first assigned the secretariat position of Zhongshu, and later promoted to the office of Supervisor of Jiangxi province and retired as the Vice Minister for the Ministry of Justice. He died in the eighth month of the year 1622. 

Both Ren Daobing and Fu state that this work was executed in the eighth lunar month of the year 1622.

 This album was in the collection of Yuexuelou assembled by Kong Guangtao and his family from Nanhai. It is recorded in juan 4 of the four-volume Record of Paintings and Calligraphy in the Collection of Yuexuelou published in the eleventh year of Xianfeng reign (1861). The album retains its original mounting and original wooden box. The work’s title is inscribed on the front of the box and again on the side, which reaffirms that this piece was cherished by the Kong family.

The writer of the titleslip is Meng Hongguang, literary name Pusheng, sobriquet names Yinjue jushi, Xiaomeng  Shanren, Lujian Zhenren, and studio names Zhuanchou lu, Meixuexuan, etc. Meng, a native of Zhejiang, resided in  Panyu, Guangdong province. He became a provincial graduate in the jiawu year of the Daoguang reign (1834). With  his encyclopedic knowledge and photographic memory, Meng devoted his life to teaching, at one time running a private school in Guangzhou. He excelled in poetry and linguistics, and was good at calligraphy and seal carving.  Meng also befriended Chen Li because of their common interest in the study of epigraphy. His published works include the Collected Poems by Lujian Zhenren, and the Seals of Meixuexuan.

Li Tingyu (1792-1861), literary name Runtang, and studio name Heqiao, a native of Fujian, served as the commanderin-chief for Fujian Navy and fought alongside Lin Zexu in the Sino-British Opium War. Well versed in both military and literary matters, Li excelled in painting orchids, and was fond of collecting painting, calligraphy, seals, and ink stones. He authored books on both military and literary subjects, including A New View of Territorial Sea of the Seven Provinces and Record of Inscriptions on Paintings and Calligraphies by Meiyintang, etc.

Chang Pi-han (Zhang Bihan), studio name Jing Yintang, a native of Jiading, Jiangsu province, graduated from Hujiang University in Shanghai. He was a famed collector, connoisseur, and artist. He studied with Zhao Mengsu, a local master from the age of thirteen; later, he studied under the tutelage of Wu Hufan and Feng Chaoran. In the 1940s, he co-founded Lüyishe (Green Ripple Society) along with Ying Yeping, Wang Jiqian, Xu Bangda, and others. He immigrated to Hong Kong in 1948, and taught at the Department of Fine Arts at the New Asia College, Chinese University of Hong Kong, from 1957 until his retirement in 1974. At the end of 1970s, he immigrated to California. Chang Pi-han’s in-depth study of Classical Chinese paintings and connoisseurship earned him the role of consultant to the Hong Kong Art Museum. His collection of paintings and calligraphies from Ming and Qing dynasties were well known at the time. Among his published works is Collected Works by Chang Pi-han.

Thatched Hut in Autumnal Mountains by Dong Bangda, who was admired and highly praised by Emperor Qianlong, is a further highlight (lot 23, est. $180/250,000). The grandly composed landscape executed on silk conveys such free, refined brushwork that it is conspicuous among the artists repertoire.


Dong Bangda  (1699-1769),  Thatched Hut in Autumnal Mountains. Photo: Sotheby’s

signed Dongshan di Dong Bangda, dated guihai (1743), and with three seals of the artist, dong bang da, fu cun, yong zhuo, and four collector’s seals, lai jiang pan shi lian zhen cang, nan yai zhen cang, lu he liu shi zhen shang, zhao xiang; ink on silk, hanging scroll, 128.7 by 71 cm. 50 3/4 by 28 in.  1743. Estimate 180,000-250,000 USD


Label inscription:

An exquisite work of ink landscape painting by Dong Dongshan of the Qing dynasty. Inscribed by Tuiweng

Artist’s inscription:

Wild rivers paired with the sky, clear and crisp,

Autumnal woods, tinted with the yellow glow of daylight;

The hermit wonders who is to keep him company,

The gull and heron are unaware of each other’s presence.

In the year of guihai (1743), ten days after the summer solstice, [I] imitated the brushwork of Dachi Daoren (Huang Gongwang) and made this piece. [I then] asked the venerated grand senior Mr. Xingweng to review and comment on it. Your brotherly junior Dongshan Dong Bangda.

Collector’s inscription:

Mr. Jimen and I are from the same hometown and associated with the same societies, and like me, he also resides in the old capital city, where we have remained friendly with each other for over thirty years. [He] is skilled in calligraphy and painting and possesses remarkable ability in collecting. I myself am also fond of acquiring the art works left by the past scholar artists in our Zhejiang region. On one occasion, I showed him the landscape painting of Dong Wenque from Fuyang. We unrolled the scroll, together admiring it, which received high praise [from him]. Any object’s best destiny is to find its befitting place and the bestowed owner as a keepsake. I therefore bring over this piece and make it a present in order to commemorate our mutual appreciation in all art works of ink and brush.

On the third day of the third lunar month in the year dinghai (1947).

Remarked after returning from viewing the blooming flowers in the mountains

Tuigu, [your brotherly junior] Zhou Zhaoxiang.

LITERATURE: Yilin yuekan, no. 72 (Beijing: Art World Monthly Journal, December 1935), p 2.

Yilin yuekan (Art World Monthly) was launched in 1930. It was originally published three times a month and was therefore called Yilin xunkan. It was sponsored and managed by The Chinese Artists’ Association, with the aim of promoting art and presenting materials of artistic significance and value. Due to its professional editorial work and the quality of the selection process for its publication, the journal was well received. The last issue was printed in 1942, with a total of 118 volumes.

The painter of Seated Portrait of a Prince in Casual Wear remains unknown, but there is no doubt that the extremely finely and gracefully portrayed gentleman was from the imperial lineage (lot 40, est. $90/120,000). The painting is particularly notable for the level of detail with which the artist has depicted the rug and lacquered throne in the painting.


Anonymous (17th-18th century), Seated Portrait of a Prince in Casual Wear. Photo: Sotheby’s

ink and color on silk, hanging scroll; 185.5 by 109.3 cm. 73 by 43 in. Estimate 90,000-120,000 USD

NOTE: Imperial portraits constitute a major category of court paintings. They can be sub-categorized into formal commemorative portraits and informal portraits, based on the costumes worn by the sitter. Most portraits are unsigned. Despite the difference in the degree of formality, imperial portraits are all painted in fine detail and rely on costumes, accessories, and background setting to indicate the sitter’s status within the imperial family. The portraitists used light ink to outline the bone structure and features of their subjects, followed by layers of light brownish color to render skin color. The early Qing court portraits were clearly influenced by the Bochen School, epitomized by the late-Ming figure painter Zeng Jing (1568-1650). In the mid-Qing, Western oil painting techniques were introduced into the court by European artists, including Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), Jean Denis Attirent (1702 -1768), and their followers. Beginning at this time, a hybrid style developed, characterized by an increased emphasis on chiaroscuro, and a decrease in relying primarily on ink contour lines to render the faces.

Based on this assessment, the present painting probably dates from the early Qing dynasty, that is, the 17th or early 18th century. The subject, who appears to be around seventy years old, is seated in a graceful pose, and exudes a self-absorbed, scholarly elegance–kind, yet stately. Sitting squarely on the gold-decorated lacquer throne, he wears an informal fur-trimmed winter robe of reddish brown satin with swastika pattern, tied with a yellow-gold colored belt. From the belt hang embroidered pouches, a knife, an ivory incense holder, and other accouterments. Based on the Illustrations to the Ceremonial Objects of the Qing, only the emperor’s sons, princes of first rank, and imperial family members could wear yellow-gold belts, whereas distant relatives of imperial family wore red belts. The sitter’s gold belt thus confirms his princely status.

The black-lacquered throne is inlaid in gold with interlocking branches of flowers and running dragons. It sits on a carpet decorated with twin dragons chasing a pearl design. The throne cover and cushion are tailored from yardage of a gold yellow semi-formal court robe and formal surcoat for an imperial prince of first rank. According to the Collected Regulations & Precedents of the Qing, the emperor’s sons are to wear yellow robes decorated with nine mang dragons, bordered by flat gold leaf. The robes for imperial princes of the first and second ranks are governed by the same regulation, except that the color of the ground fabric can only be blue or blue-black. In addition to the large roundels of front-facing five-clawed and side-facing mang dragons, the throne cover and cushion are also decorated with bats, auspicious clouds, a shou character in seal script, and a shallow border of lishui (standing water pattern), all finely woven. The overall design, together with the swastika pattern on the sitter’s robe, emblematic of longevity, suggests that the work was intended to be used in a birthday celebration befitting the status of an imperial prince of the first rank.

Although the collections of the Palace Museum in Beijing and the Freer-Sackler Museum in Washington D.C. include many Imperial portraits, depictions of interior scenes with dragon carpets are extremely rare. In the Palace Museum there is one hanging scroll, Portrait of the Emperor Kangxi Writing Calligraphy that depicts a dragon carpet.

The sale also includes two exquisite paintings of Daoist and Buddhist subject matter: Portraits of Jade Emperor and the Heavenly Kings (lot 70, est. $60/80,000), and Heavenly Deities of Land and Water (lot 71, est. $5/7,000). Besides the extremely vibrant and vivid brushstrokes and coloring, each painting celebrates its rarity with an inscription and a specific date, the former being commissioned by one of Jiajing emperor’s concubines in 1545, and the latter dedicated to Longshu Temple on Putuo Mountain in 1617, the forty-fifth year of Wanli reign.


Anonymous, Portraits of Jade Emperor and the Heavenly Kings.  Photo: Sotheby’s

ated the twenty-fourth year of the Jiajing reign (1545), first lunar month and inscribed, ‘Princess Jing of the Great Ming dynasty made a vow to paint this piece, on an auspicious day of the first month in the twenty-fourth reign year of Jiajing (1545).’ ink and color on silk, framed; 122 by 87.4 cm. 48 by 34 3/4 in.  Estimate 60,000-80,000 USD

PROVENANCE:Purchased at Yonghe Gong, Beijing, in 1949 (see original shipping document)

California private collection

NOTE:The inscription on the present painting reads and may be translated as follows:

Jing fei Wen shi faxin hui shi

Jiajing ershisi nian zhengyue jiri

Concubine Jing with the surname Wen sincerely bestowed this painting on the third day of the first lunar month of the 24th year of the Jiajing reign (equivalent to 1545)

This painting presents an image of the Daoist deity Yu Huang (Jade Emperor) with his celestial court. In Daoism, Yu Huang is the ruler of heaven and all the lower realms, including earth and hell. However, in popular belief, Yu Huang was very much seen as the key figure in the pantheon.

For an early depiction of Yu Huang see a stele dated to 527, in the National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing, included in the exhibition Taoism and the Arts of China, the Art Institute of Chicago, 2000, cat. no. 33. He also appears, with his entourage of deities, on a robe in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, included ibid., p. 197, fig.47, with a similar robe in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, mentioned.

The Jiajing emperor was a devout follower and patron of Daoism. During his reign Daoism gained importance with the number of images of the numerous Daoist gods increasing significantly. See a hanging scroll dated to 1542 commissioned by one of Jiajing’s concubine’s called Shen depicting the deified Daoist hero Marshal Wang, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, published ibid., pl. 88. This suggests that it was a common practice for the emperor’s concubines to commission works of this kind with the knowledge that it would meet his approval.

While little is known of Concubine Jing, records show that she was promoted to Guifei before the 60th birthday of Jiajing in 1566, and that she died during Wanli’s reign (1573-1619).

Yonghe Gong, where the present painting was purchased, is one of the most important and largest Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries in China, located in the north-east district of Beijing. Built in 1694, during the reign of the Kangxi emperor, it served as the residence for Prince Yinzhen for nearly thirty years before he took the throne as Emperor Yongzheng.

It was made into an imperial lamasery in the ninth year of the Qianlong reign (1744).


 Anonymous, Heavenly Deities of Land and Water.  Photo: Sotheby’s

dated the forty-fifth year of the Wanli reign (1617), titled, and inscribed, ‘Dhtarara, Virupaka, Mahabrahman, Lakshmi. In the forty-fifth year of Wanli reign (1617), Monk Jiren accepted this contribution from the devotee Ni Xing. He delivered it to Mount Putuo where the work will enter the permanent collection of Longshu Temple and forever be revered and worshipped.’ ink and color on silk, hanging scroll; 188 by 93.9 cm. 74 by 37 in. Estimate 5,000-7,000 USD

NOTE: The inscription on the present painting reads and may be translated as follows:

Wanli sishiwu nian, muyuanseng Jiren

zhuzi xinshi Ni Xing, song Putuo Shan Longshu An

changzhu yongyuan gongfeng.

This painting was dedicated by Monk Jiren, using believer Ni Xing’s funds, to Longshu Temple on Putuo Mountain, shing it to be worshipped forever.

The inscription on the top left corner lists the names of four Buddhist deities: the Guardian God of the East, the God of Brahma (Fan Wang), the Guardian God of the West and the God of Virtue.

The present hanging scroll belongs to a special group of Buddhist images that were made for use in the Water-and-Land Ritual (Shuilu zhai), a rite developed for the salvation of all the deceased. This ritual, commonly practiced by Buddhist worshippers, intended to establish merit (gong) for both the living and the souls of the dead in the netherworld so that they can eventually reach incarnation and ascend to the celestial realms. While a number of important Ming period hanging scrolls of this type are known, those bearing a date and a dedicatory inscription are extremely rare to find in private hands.

Compare an earlier hanging scroll painted with the Masters of Professions and Arts, one of a set of 130 images created for the Water-and-Land rite, in the collection of the Shanxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan, illustrated in New History of World Art, Toyo hen, vol. 8, Tokyo, 1999, pl. 16; and another painting made for the same ritual, attributed to the Wanli period (c. 1600), depicting the Lady of the Highest Primordial (Shangyuan furen) and the Empress of Earth (Houtu) in the collection of Musee Guimet, Paris, included in the exhibition Taoism and the Arts of China

The European Chinoisery Ceramic Collections Exhibition










The Driwan’s  Cybermuseum





A Meissen silver-gilt-mounted underglaze-blue-ground snuff box, circa 1740. Photo Bonhams

Cartouche-shaped, the sides reserved with four oval panels painted with chinoiserie scenes within gilt scrollwork borders, the corners with, at the front, gilt foliage, and scrollwork at the rear, the cover similarly decorated, reserved with a band of indianische Blumen, the base painted with a chinoiserie scene, the inside cover painted with a bust of a bearded man wearing a turban and scattered insects, within a brown-edged quatrelobe reserve against a burnished gilt ground, the box interior with a burnished gilt ground, 7.6cm across; 3.9cm high (minor wear). Estimate: £20,000 – 30,000, € 23,000 – 34,000, US$ 33,000 – 49,000
Literature: Joseph 1977, ill. 4;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, no. 26;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 7Exhibited: London, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Antiques Dealers’ Association, Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, 29 April-12 May 1968;
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1972-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010

An extremely rare Meissen silver-gilt-mounted red-ground circular snuff box, circa 1735-40. Photo Bonhams
Painted on each side, the base and cover with a ‘contour’ chinoiserie scene depicting figures engaged in various amusing pursuits, within a shaped, gilt-edged quatrelobe reserve, the inside cover with a similar scene, the interior gilt, the mount applied with a scroll thumbpiece, 6cm diam.; 4cm high (wear to edge of base). Estimate: £20,000 – 30,000, € 23,000 – 34,000, US$ 33,000 – 49,000
Provenance: Anon. sale, Christie’s Geneva, 12 November 1976, lot 161;
Anon. sale, Christie’s Geneva, 9 November 1987, lot 69Literatue: Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 9

Exhibited: Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1987-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010



A Meissen silver-gilt-mounted sea-green-ground oval snuff box, circa 1730. Photo Bonhams

The front, back and cover with a chinoiserie scene depicting figures by an estuary or harbour, within a gilt-edged quatrelobe reserve, the base with chrysantheums against a ground of iron-red leaves, the burnished gilt interior with a quatrelobe chinoiserie scene reserved inside the cover, 7.5cm wide, (minor losses). Estimate: £15,000 – 20,000, € 17,000 – 23,000, US$ 25,000 – 33,000
Provenance:: Anon. sale, Sotheby’s London, 27 June 1961, lot ??;
Alfred Joseph Collection, no. 1268Literature: Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, no. 24;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 6

Exhibited: Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1972-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010

A similar Meissen snuff-box is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (Inv. no. 2333-1855).

A Meissen gold-mounted snuff box, circa 1735-40. Photo Bonhams
Decorated with three miniature chinoiserie scenes at the front, each within a gilt scrollwork and Böttger lustre cartouche, the sides and back with similar, wider cartouches, the cover with chinoiserie figures and flowering branches on a gilt scrollwork pedestal enclosing Böttger lustre, trellis panels and an oval purple monochrome landscape vignette, the base with a large chinoiserie vignette within a moulded border with a gilt line inside and a gilt border outside, the inside cover with a scene of a man embracing a lady seated at a dressing table within a gilt frame, the box interior gilt, 7.5cm wide, (small restored chip to rear left corner of outside of cover). Estimate: £15,000 – 20,000, € 17,000 – 23,000, US$ 25,000 – 33,000
Literature: Joseph 1977, ills. 6-8;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 8Exhibited: Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, c. 1977-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010


Three 19th century Chinoiserie snuff boxes in Meissen style




A gilt-metal-mounted oval snuff box, 19th century. Photo Bonhams

In Meissen style, painted on each side with a chinoiserie scene within a shaped gilt scrollwork cartouche enclosing lustre and embellished with iron-red scrollwork, the cover similarly decorated, the base with a chinoiserie vignette, the inside cover with an elaborate chinoiserie scene, the mounts moulded with floral scrollwork, 7.4cm across, K.P.M. and crossed swords mark in underglaze-blue to base of box interior. Estimate: £1,000 – 2,000, € 1,100 – 2,300, US$ 1,700 – 3,300

Provenance: Alfred Joseph Collection, no. 1312

Literature: Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, no. 9;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 3

Exhibited:  Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1972-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010






A silver-gilt-mounted oval snuff box, 19th century. Photo Bonhams

Of bombé shape, decorated with cartouches of Böttger lustre surrounded by puce camaieu and iron-red scrollwork enclosing chinoiserie scenes after the Schulz-codex, the base with a large Kakiemon flower spray, 5.4cm wide, crossed swords mark in underglaze-blue to inside base. Estimate: £1,000 – 1,500, € 1,100 – 1,700, US$ 1,700 – 2,500

Provenance:  Alfred Joseph Collection

Literature:  Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, no. 11;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 4

Exhibited:  Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1972-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010




A gold-mounted triangular snuff box, 19th century. Photo Bonhams

In Meissen style, painted with a continuous chinoiserie scene around the sides depicting Orientals engaged in various amusing pursuits, above an iron-red double-line and a gilt border, the cover and inside cover with similar scenes, the base with a spray of indianische Blumen, the interior gilt, the mount twice struck with ‘owl’ mark, import mark for gold ware, France, after 1893, 8.9cm across (some wear to interior gilding).. Estimate: £1,000 – 1,500, € 1,100 – 1,700, US$ 1,700 – 2,500

Literature: Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 10

Exhibited:  Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, ca. 1988-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010






A Saint Cloud gilt-metal-mounted snuff box, circa 1740. Photo Bonhams

The cover and base moulded in high-relief with a shell heightened in coloured enamels in a Kakiemon palette, the sides painted with Oriental flower sprigs, the inside cover painted with a chinoiserie scene depicting a figure standing by a fence, flanked by flowering bushes, the inside with a single flower sprig, 8cm across (slight rubbing to enamels on base). Estimate: £3,000 – 5,000, € 3,400 – 5,700, US$ 4,900 – 8,200

Literature: Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, no. 384;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 82;

Exhibited: Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1972-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010


A Saint Cloud silver-mounted snuff box, circa 1745. Photo Bonhams

Painted with landscape vignettes with chinoiserie figures and flowering plants and insects, the inside similarly decorated, the silver mounts with the discharge marks for Antoine Leschaudel, Paris, 1744-50 and Paris year initial ‘H; for 1748-49, 7cm wide (one corner of cover restored). Estimate: £2,000 – 3,000, € 2,300 – 3,400, US$ 3,300 – 4,900

Provenance: Alfred Joseph Collection, no. 1310

Literature: Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, no. 394;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 84;

Exhibited: Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1972-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010


A Saint Cloud silver-mounted snuff box, circa 1730. Photo Bonhams

Painted with landscape vignettes with chinoiserie figures and pagodas among extensive flowering plants, the inside of the cover with similar scenes, the base with an iron-red vignette of plants issuing from rockwork, the silver mounts with wavy thumbpiece and clasp, discharge mark of Jacques Cottin, Paris, 1727-32, 5.1cm wide, (some wear to base). Estimate: £800 – 1,200, € 920 – 1,400, US$ 1,300 – 2,000

Provenance: Alfred Joseph Collection, no. 1609

Literature: Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, no. 369;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 79;

Exhibited: Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1972-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010


Les Islettes, trois assiettes à bordure contournée, décor au chinois. Fin XVIIIème siècle



 Les Islettes, assiette à bordure contournée, décor au chinois fumant la pipe. Fin XVIIIème siècle. Photo POUSSE-CORNET – VALOIR

Diam. : 24,5 cm Usures



 Les Islettes, assiette à bordure contournée, décor au chinois péchant.  Fin XVIIIème siècle. Photo POUSSE-CORNET – VALOIR

Diam. : 24 cm Usures et fêle



Les Islettes  Assiette à bordure contournée, décor au chinois fumant la pipe. Fin XVIIIème siècle. Photo POUSSE-CORNET – VALOIR

Diam. : 24,5 cm. Restaurée




A Frankenthal gilt-metal-mounted rectangular snuff box, circa 1770. Photo Bonhams

Of slightly waisted form with a domed cover and the exterior moulded with a basketwork pattern, the base and cover painted with chinoiserie scenes after Jean Pillement, the sides with landscape scenes depicting ruins, castles and bridges over rivers, the inside cover with a scene of peasants smoking and drinking, the mounts with wavy borders, 8cm wide. Estimate: £3,000 – 4,000, € 3,400 – 4,600, US$ 4,900 – 6,600
Provenance: Alfred Joseph Collection, no. 1630Literature: Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, no. 294;
Beaucamp-Markowsky 1988, no. 67Exhibited: Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1972-2003;
London, Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, 2003-2008;
Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, The Bowes Museum, 2008-2010

The chinoiserie scenes on the cover and base are based on two prints by Jean Pillement from a series, ‘Livre de Chinois‘, published in London in 1758 and engraved by P.C. Canot.


The Amizing Ancient Gold Collections Exhibition











The Driwan’s  Cybermuseum



Medallion with Bust of Alexander the Great (ca. 218-235 CE) gold. Roman (probably struck in Macedonia), diameter 5.4 cm.


et les masterpieces de la collection




Mumienmaske eines Mannes, Römisch, 1. Hälfte des 1. Jh. n. Chr, Hawara; Temperamalerei auf Leinwand, Gips,


Among the works in the new galleries are a pair of Greek serpentine armbands in gold (about 200 B.C.).


Schildring mit Löwenkopf, Meroitisch, 1. Jhrd. v. Chr., Meroë, Pyramide der Amanishakheto; Gold © SMB,













Trésor. Argenterie


Cigale en cristal de roche


Le collier d’Assiut, 400-600



Gold Turtle Necklace, AD 1400-1521, Mexico. Copyright Dumbarton Oaks, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.


Gold finger ring, 1200 – 1521, gold pendant of human face and warrior-ruler figurine with ritual regalia. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.


Pendant, c. 1200-1521, Mixtec-Zapotec. Gold with silver and copper. © The Trustees of the British Museum.


Finger ring made of cast gold with a feline head, 1300-1521, Mixtec


Headdress Ornament with Animals and Birds, Colchian, 350–300 B.C. Gold. Greatest extent: H: 6.6 x W: 6.5 x D: 2.7 cm (2 5/8 x 2 9/16 x 1 1/16 in.) Georgian National Museum, Tbilisi, Georgia, 1-2005/1. Photo: Amiran Kiladze.VEX.2009.4.106

LOS ANGELES, CA.- In a spectacular display of archaeological finds, The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani, on view from July 16–October 5, 2009, at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, presents more than 140 objects from one of the most celebrated archaeological sites in the Republic of Georgia, including four recently excavated bronze lamps, shown together for the first time.

Vani was an important settlement in the ancient kingdom of Colchis, a region best known as the destination of Jason and the Argonauts in their mythical quest for the Golden Fleece. Even in antiquity, Colchis was renowned as a region rich in gold, and excavations at Vani have confirmed this reputation. Prompted by reports of jewelry that came to the surface following heavy rainfall in the area, archaeologists in the late 1930s began to systematically explore Vani. Their excavations have uncovered a series of burials in which the deceased were laid to rest wearing a sumptuous array of ornaments, and have revealed that Vani was a major political and religious center.

The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani features an extraordinary array of objects, dating from the mid-fifth to mid-first centuries B.C. From an impressive variety of locally-made gold jewelry to imports from the Persian Empire and the Greek world, the ancient treasures in the exhibition reveal both the region’s rich material resources and a complex and fruitful network of interactions with neighboring peoples.

“This exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to tell the story of this ancient temple city and give visitors a view into the complex interrelations of ancient cultures,” says Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “We are delighted to have these objects together here in Los Angeles for the very first time.”

David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum, adds, “We are delighted that these exquisite objects from one of Georgia’s most important archeological sites are serving as the cultural bridge between Georgian museums and American institutions such as the Getty Museum, the Smithsonian, and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. We are equally pleased to see the Getty Villa bejeweled by the magnificent Georgian treasures of Vani, providing audiences a glimpse into our country, its history, and rich culture. We hope this collaboration with the Getty Museum is only the beginning of a long lasting relationship between our institutions. ”

Although The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani, organized by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, has toured the United States and Europe, the Getty presentation includes four elaborate bronze lamps that were discovered during excavations at the site in 2007. Part of a hoard of precious bronzes, they may have been deposited during a time of crisis. The discovery of this well-preserved cache of ancient metalwork is significant for the light it sheds on the manufacture and use of bronze in ancient Colchis. Furthermore, the artistry of the lamps is difficult to parallel—for example, the careful rendering of the Indian elephant heads that serve as nozzles for an Incense Burner (250–100 B.C.), or the elaborate composition of the Lamp with Elephant Heads and Human Figures (250–100 B.C.). Two of the lamps—the Lamp with Zeus and Ganymede and Lamp with Erotes (250–100 B.C.)—have never been displayed before, and were brought to the Getty for cleaning and analysis as part of a collaborative project with Georgian archaeologists and conservators.

“This is the first time we’ve brought objects directly from an archaeological site to the Museum for treatment and conservation, which carries with it great responsibility. We have been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to exchange knowledge and expertise with our Georgian colleagues and were delighted to have Dr. Nino Kalandadze, a visiting conservator morefrom the Georgian National Museum, at the Villa for several weeks working on the lamps with our conservation team,” says Jerry Podany, the Getty Museum’s senior conservator of antiquities.

The exhibition focuses on a treasure trove of objects from five of the 28 graves that have been excavated at the site so far. They date to 450–250 B.C, when Vani was at the height of its prosperity. Among them, Grave 11 is the earliest and perhaps the richest burial. Dating to the mid-fifth century B.C., it contains four bodies laid inside a wooden structure and, outside it, a horse. Although all four bodies wore jewelry, one—a woman—was much more elaborately adorned, indicating her elite status.

The Necklace with Turtle Pendants (about 450 B.C.), a stunning example of Colchian goldwork, is one of the five necklaces discovered in this grave. The shells of the turtles are intricately decorated with granulation—the application of numerous tiny gold spheres—and are indicative of the advanced skill of Colchian goldworkers.

Another burial, Grave 24, excavated in 2004, exemplifies the cultural contacts enjoyed by the local aristocracy, for alongside another assemblage of gold jewelry and adornments are vessels imported from—or inspired by—both the Greek world and the Persian Empire. Of particular interest is the Silver Belt (350–300 B.C.) that depicts a banqueter attended by servants, testifying to the cultural importance of feasting.

The other three burials featured in the exhibition include a grave of a woman (Grave 6), which contained a striking polychrome pendant, manufactured in the Persian Empire but imported and adapted for local use at Vani; the grave of a warrior (Grave 9), whose gold ring bears an inscription in Greek, Dedatos, which may be his name; and the grave of an infant girl (Grave 4), who was adorned with gold jewelry just like her elders.

“The archaeological finds not only demonstrate the highly refined craftsmanship of local goldworkers, but also testify to contacts with both the Greek world and the Persian Empire,” says Karol Wight, the Getty Museum’s senior curator of antiquities. “Through our presentation, we hope to introduce visitors to an ancient heritage that expands our knowledge of an important civilization in this region. Many of the objects unearthed at Vani are without parallel in the ancient Mediterranean world.”

After the mid-third century B.C., evidence of rich burials ceases at the site. Most of the structures—such as altars and cult buildings—seem to have a religious or ritual function and, according to some scholars, Vani served thereafter as a sanctuary-city. Among the treasures from this period is the Torso of a Youth (200–100 B.C.), a well-proportioned bronze in a style that recalls Greek sculptures dating to 490–460 B.C., but that seems to have been made locally. It was discovered in an archaeological context that indicates it was a victim of the military destruction sustained at Vani around 50 B.C., which brought activity at the site to an abrupt end.


Gold Phiale Mesomphalos, Vani, Achaemenid influence, 400-350 B.C


Pendentif à deux passants en forme de grenouille chamanique. Diquis-Veraguas, Costa Rica ou Panama (700-1.500 ap. J.-C.) 

décoré d’un serpent s’échappant de la gueule de l’animal. Ses quatre pieds sont terminés par des têtes d’alligators. Or jaune, fonte à la cire perdue. Hauteur : 8 cm / longueur : 6 cm / Poids : 62,9g . Estimation : 10 000/12 000 €


Pendentif à un passant arrière en forme de faon ou de cerf. Costa Rica ou Panama (700-1.500 ap. J.-C.)


Diadem, Late 4th c. B.C., Gold. From Populonia. Florence, National Archaeological Museum


Pair of “bauletto” Earrings, Middle of 6th c. B.C., Gold.




Gold necklace elements, with turquoise, gray chalcedony, glass. Iran, late 14th to early 15th century C.E. Photograph © 1989 The Metropolitan Museum of Art




Gold pendant with pair of birds, Greater Iran, 11th to 12th century C.E.


The Garden of Eden plays an important part in Islamic jewelry, with birds being the central theme. Here we see a pair of birds touching at their beaks and chests as they stand on their tiny feet in the middle of this pendant.




Carnelian and gold necklace, Deir el-Balah, 13th century B.C.E.


This necklace consists of 244 carnelian and gold beads and wedjat eye amulets. The center gold spacer is decorated in the repoussé technique; it depicts an image of the goddess Hathor, the goddess of love and joy


Pair of Earrings with Dangling Bells, Parthian, 3rd to 2nd century B.C.E. Gold, H: 6.5 cm. Private Collection

NEW YORK, NY.- The National Jewelry Institute (NJI), the world’s first institute devoted to jewelry and precious objects, announced that Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization is on view at The Forbes Galleries, located at 62 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY through December 31, 2008.

Cited by experts as the most unique and profound show of its kind, the exhibition brings together 135 jewelry objects and accessories from the far reaches of history and the birthplace of civilization. Culled from the world’s greatest museums, the collection includes breathtaking pieces from the Louvre in Paris, Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Princeton University Art Museum.

As Christopher Forbes, Vice Chairman, Forbes, Inc. stated, “Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry offers a window into ancient life and society. This is the sixth in a series of exhibitions organized by the National Jewelry Institute for which The FORBES Galleries have been privileged to provide a setting. It is also the most ambitious exhibition undertaken to date. Bringing almost 150 pieces for a show is a daunting task under any circumstances, but when the works in question include priceless treasures thousands of years old coming from museums and private collections around the world, the effort involved is Herculean.”

Some of the gems and jewels showcased are more than 7,000 years old and derive from the Ancient Near East, including Mesopotamia, the region that is believed by many historians to be the location of the Garden of Eden, revered by the world’s major religions.

“Jewelry is much more than simply personal adornment,” said Price. “Like all true art, it can be a remarkable expression of a culture and way of life. This collection offers a glimpse of an ancient civilization—one that lies at the very foundation of the modern Western world.”

Following its run at The Forbes Galleries, the exhibition will travel to the Field Museum in Chicago where it will be on display from February 13, 2009 through July 5, 2009.

The corporate partners for Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry are: Christian Dior Couture and AXA Art Insurance Corporation. NJI has also produced a book titled Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization, published by Running Press (ISBN 978-0-7624-3386-5).



Deux magnifiques exemples de la joaillerie égyptienne


















Collier. Art hellénistique. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Bandeau tressé composé de six rangs de fins maillons, dont les extrémités forment un cœur serti d’un grenat. 47,5 cm. Estimation : 10 000 / 12 000 €

Paire de bracelets en or. Iran, 17e siècle. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Anneaux articulés creux, dont les extrémités jointes sont en forme de polyèdres bulbeux. Le décor, repoussé et ciselé, se compose de bandes obliques, de motifs floraux et végétaux en frises et de listels ponctués. Diam. 9,5 cm. Estimation : 7 000 / 8 000 €


Cast-Gold Composite Animal Effigy Pendant (detail)

Emerging from the soaring cloud forests, rushing rivers, and dancing waterfalls of Central Panama, a celestial hero of ancient myth, arrayed in supernatural golden clothing, revealed himself to the modern world when, in the early 1900s, stories began to circulate of children playing marbles with gold beads found in the great Coclé River.

The first Cuna San Blas Indians believed their gods, heroes, and other mythic men and women could turn into animals at will to accomplish special purposes. At the time of a great flood or other cosmic disaster, gods transformed people into animals to allow them to survive or to punish them. It was in the late 1920s that news of a veritable “river of gold” began to spread as large quantities of fabled golden animals and sacred ornaments were discovered, attracting the attention of archaeologists.

River of Gold: Precolumbian Treasures from Sitio Conte tells the story of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s (whose collection was the source of the incredible exhibition Searching for Ancient Egypt, which drew 134,578 visitors to Joslyn in 1999) excavations at the Precolumbian cemetery of Sitio Conte, Panama, and, for the first time, presents these archaeological treasures within their cultural context.


Cast-Gold Bat Effigy Pendant (detail)

The cemeteries of Sitio Conte — about 100 miles west of Panama City — were overlooked by gold-seeking Spaniards in the 16th century, a fortunate circumstance when, at the turn of the 19th century, the Rio Grande de Coclé shifted its bed yet again and partially exposed the burials and their contents. In the 1940s a Penn Museum expedition undertook an excavation that uncovered rich and remarkable evidence that a thriving Precolumbian civilization had inhabited the region more than a thousand years previously. Great quantities of gold artifacts and jewelry were found especially in the grave of one high-status individual. Like the sun emerging from the underworld, gold objects removed from the burial mounds conveyed highly symbolic images of the creation myth and personifications of nature’s animal and human forces. The gold work from the site, which is almost entirely body ornamentation, is famous for its extraordinary beauty and sophisticated technology. Goldsmiths of the New World were consummate artisans, and those who created the objects found in the Sitio Conte cemetery were no exception. Working with the simplest of tools, they utilized technologies such as embossing, lost-wax casting, and depletion gilding to achieve extraordinary aesthetic effects. Plaques and cuffs were crafted from hammered gold sheet; cast pendants were exquisitely detailed, one-of-a-kind items.

The exhibition presents the gold from Sitio Conte in its unique archaeological and cultural context. Included are more than 150 gold objects dating from 700 to 1100 AD — hammered repoussé plaques, nose ornaments, gold-sheathed ear rods, pendants, bells, bangles, and beads — as well as richly detailed, painted ceramics and objects of precious and semi-precious stone, ivory, and bone.

Very little is known about the ancient societies of Central America, which have long been overshadowed by the more famous Precolumbian civilizations of Mesoamerica and the Andes. River of Gold is not only a visually stunning exhibition, it also gives viewers an invaluable glimpse into a Panamanian society as it was a thousand years ago and promotes an understanding of the culture of these enigmatic people who left such sophisticated art in their elite burials.


Gold Nose Clip (detail)

Parements cloisonnés. 5e-6e siècle


Parements cloisonnés. 5e-6e siècle. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Six boucles et boutons, dont trois en forme de fleurs écloses, sertis de grenats ou de turquoises. Quelques lacunes. Estimation : 50 000 / 60 000 €

Provenance : Collection L. Grenacs, Belgique. (1975).

 à l’antilope. Art sino-sibérien des Steppes, 1er millénaire av. J.C.


Plaque à l’antilope. Art sino-sibérien des Steppes, 1er millénaire av. J.C. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Plaque discoïde en fer recouverte d’une feuille d’or repoussée, décorée d’une antilope couchée, tête de trois-quarts tournée en arrière. 4,8 cm – Estimation : 12 000 / 14 000 €

Provenance : Hôtel Drouot (Me Boisgirard – A. Kevorkian), 15 Décembre 1995 : n° 9B.

Vase libatoire.Bactriane, 3e-2e millénaire av. J.C.


Vase libatoire.Bactriane, 3e-2e millénaire av. J.C. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Vase à panse arrondie et bec en gouttière horizontale, fendu au sommet. A l’opposé, une anse coudée tubulaire, appliquée au récipient, comme le bec, par une plaque discoïde percée de trous formant passoire, se prolonge par une tête de chameau à robe ponctuée et crinière en mèches. Haut. 10 ; Long. 33 ; Diam. 14 cm – Estimation sur demande

Un rapport d’analyse effectué à Los Angeles par Pieter Meyers confirmant l’ancienneté de l’objet sera remis à l’acquéreur.


Broche aux animaux. Art grec, vers le 5e siècle av. J.C.


Broche aux animaux. Art grec, vers le 5e siècle av. J.C. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Plaque rectangulaire, décorée de rosettes et fleurs écloses et garnie dans les angles de quatre figurines de taureaux couchés, tête tournée en direction d’un lion accroupi. Plaque : 7 x 4,5 cm – Estimation : 28 000 / 32 000 €





Bague romaine en or et intaille du 3e siècle.

Lourde bague romaine en or fin. L’anneau est formé d’une large bande plate qui va en s’élargissant du pied aux épaules. Les épaules sont incisées de deux nervures profondes et une plus fine au centre. Les bords du chaton sont découpés de volutes. L’intaille est en agate onyx à trois bandes, en forme de cône tronqué, ce qui, vue de dessus, lui donne l’apparence d’un œil. Ce type d’agate était très recherché pour ses vertus prophylactiques. Une inscription de trois caractères romains est gravée sur le sommet de l’intaille : M A P, sans doute pour représenter les initiales du nom du propriétaire (Marcus Antonius Publius, par exemple). Le serti de l’intaille est « en cuvette ».


A Hellenistic gold oak wreath, Circa 4th-3rd Century B.C. Estimate: £100,000 – 120,000. photo Bonhams

A delicate wreath made of fine gold oak leaves with acorns, of the type worn by Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedon, is one of the highlights of Bonhams sale of Antiquities on April 28 in New Bond Street.

This stunning artefact, estimate £100,000-120,000, may once have graced the head of a ruler or dignitary over 2,000 years ago. “The fact that this delicate collection of fine gold leaves and acorns formed into a wreath has survived the centuries is almost miraculous,” says Madeleine Perridge, Antiquities Specialist at Bonhams. Previously in a private collection since the 1930s, “it is a beautiful example of a type that is rare to the market.”



A Hellenistic gold oak wreath (details), Circa 4th-3rd Century B.C. Estimate: £100,000 – 120,000. photo Bonhams

Composed of numerous projecting sprays of sheet gold oak leaves with serrated edges and veins, miniature acorns nestling amongst them, each spray attached by twisted gold wire to a circular gold tube, the overlapping ends bound together to form a crown, 17in (43cm) diam, 5½in (14cm) deep, mounted on a perspex stand. 

Provenance: Private Swiss collection acquired between the 1930s-60s.
Acquired by the present owner at Sotheby’s London, July 11th, 1988, lot 83. Accompanied by a metallurgical/condition report.

Literature: The most famous of these types of wreaths is that found at Vergina in the tomb of Alexander the Great’s father Philip II of Macedon: M. Andronicos, Vergina: The Royal Tombs and the Ancient City, (Athens 1984), figs.137 & 184. However, such gold wreaths have been found in burials all over the Hellenistic world including Asia Minor, the North Pontic, and Magna Graecia. This is a very ornate and detailed example; for a similar oak leaf wreath with acorns, cf. D. Williams & J. Ogden, Greek Gold: Jewellery of the Classical World, (London 1994), pp.106-7, no.60; Also cf. Exhibition Catalogue, The Search for Alexander, (New York 1980), pl.36, p.187, no.173.

The sale also boasts a private English Collection of finely-painted Greek vases of exceptional condition. Previously exhibited at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, they are painted by leading artists from Classical Athens. They include:

An Attic red-figure stemless kylix by Douris, circa 480 B.C. showing a draped youth with defined musculature, standing in an Athenian wine-shop amongst large amphorae, (estimate £30,000-40,000). Exhibited in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard from 1937, this drinking cup is a fascinating image of Athenian life in the Classical period.


Pyramid mounts and an inscribed strip from the Anglo-Saxon gold Staffordshire hoard which has now received a £1.3m Heritage grant to meet the £3.3m total required for it to remain in Midlands museums. Photograph: Staffordshire hoard website/PA

LONDRES (ROYAUME-UNI) [25.03.10] – Le Trésor de Staffordshire, un des plus importants trésors anglo-saxons, a été sauvé de la dispersion grâce à une subvention d’environ 1,3 millions de livres du National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).

La NHMF qui fait pourtant face à d’importants problèmes financiers – son budget ayant été réduit de moitié – a contribué à hauteur d’environ 1,3 millions de livres à la sauvegarde du trésor de Staffordshire. Cette contribution met fin à neuf mois de campagne pour conserver le Trésor sur le territoire britannique, plus précisément dans deux musées du West Midlands, région de sa découverte.

Trouvé en juin 2009 par un amateur dans la région du Staffordshire, le dépôt daté des VIIe VIIIe siècles qui se compose de 1500 objets à caractère guerrier en or (5 kg) et en argent (1,3 kg) est le plus important trésor anglo-saxon découvert à ce jour.

Déclaré trésor en septembre 2009 par le coroner – fonctionnaire chargé entre autres, de mettre en application le Treasure Act, c’est-à-dire l’ensemble de lois relatives à la découverte d’un trésor –, il devient un bien de la couronne britannique. Récupéré pour des études par le Burningham Archeology, il fait depuis, l’objet d’expositions, d’abord au Burningham Museum & Art Gallery puis au British Museum –jusqu’au 17 avril 2010.

En novembre 2009, le comité chargé d’évaluer le prix du Trésor a estimé celui-ci à plus de 3 millions de livres, somme qui devait être réunie par les musées locaux avant le 17 avril sans quoi le trésor serait alors vendu à des acheteurs privés.

Dame Jenny Abramsky s’est félicité de cette initiative en précisant au Guardian que « c’est exactement pour ce genre de chose que NHMF a été créé » et qu’il répondait ainsi à sa mission première de préservation du patrimoine national d’importance exceptionnelle en danger. La ministre de la Culture britannique, Margaret Hodge, a également salué ce geste.

Néanmoins, une somme supplémentaire d’environ 1,7 millions de livres est nécessaire pour pouvoir étudier et conserver correctement le trésor qui est loin d’avoir livré tous ses secrets.

Les 3,3 millions de livres seront partagées entre le découvreur et le propriétaire du terrain sur lequel le trésor a été découvert. 


Amateur metal detector unearths largest haul of gold from the period ever found – 1,500 pieces including weapons, helmet decorations, coins and Christian crosses. Photograph: PR


A dagger hilt found in the Staffordshire hoard. Photograph: PR


A detail of a fish and eagles. The first scraps of gold were found in a field by Terry Herbert, an amateur metal detector, in July. He could now be in line to share £1m with the landowner. Photograph: PR


A folded cross. Photograph: PR


A gold helmet cheekpiece. Photograph: PR


A gold hilt fitting with inlaid garnets. One expert has described the hoard as being as significant as the Book of Kells. Photograph: PR


A gold plaque with entwined and stylised arms. Photograph: PR


A gold scabbard boss with inlaid garnets. Photograph: PR


A gold strip with a biblical inscription. Photograph: PR


A pair of pyramid sword fittings. Photograph: PR


A figure of an animal, possibly from the crest of a helmet. Photograph: PR


A gold sword fitting with an inlaid garnet. Photograph: PR


A cheekpiece, fittings and zoomorphic mount. Photograph: PR


Fish and eagles. Photograph: PR


A glass chequerboard stud with a gold and garnet surround


“Byzanz: Splendour and Everyday Life” @ the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn




Perfume brazier, 12th century, San Marco, Venice; © Procuratoria della Basilica di San Marco, Venezia


BONN.- Presenting more than 600 magnificent and historically meaningful exhibits and important artefacts from collections and archaeological excavations the exhibition shed light on many aspects of the history, archaeology and art of the Byzantine Empire.

It will offer an overview of the “Byzantine Millenium” (from the foundation of Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 324 A.D. to the conquest by the Ottomans in 1453), but will concentrate above all on the prospering of the Empire from the time of Justinian I (527–565 A.D.) until the plundering of Constantinople by western crusaders in 1204. Preciosous ivories, spectacular icons and manuscripts, architectural fragments, sculptures and everyday objects are presented in their original contexts. The main questions of the Byzantine state, Byzantine art and culture, society, economy, the Byzantine military, as well as daily life, etc., are to be discussed on the basis of “scenes”, by means of which these themes can be made highly accessible. The “scenes” will be reconstructed and animated with the help of computer graphics; archaeological finds will thus “speak”. Animated films will introduce the respective sections of the exhibition.


The exhibition will also illustrate the achievements of the various disciplines that have contributed to our understanding of Byzantine culture, and thus have enabled an understanding of the present: above all Byzantine studies, art history and archaeology, along with few other related fields.




Medaillon with St. Theodore, 12th century, Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, Kiev; © Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, Kiev


Antiquity has left its mark on Europe. In which way this happened clearly distinguishes Western from Eastern Europe. The upheavals of the Migration Period with the subsequent foundation of the barbarian kingdoms largely brought the development of the Mediterranean civilisation to a standstill in the Roman West. It was the church that managed the inheritance of the Greeks and Romans. Both the Carolingeans and agents of the powerful 14th century Renaissance consciously reached back to the time of Constantine the Great and carried the achievements of Antiquity forward.

The situation in the East was different: In Constantinople, the Greco-Roman world in its Christian version remained vibrant for centuries. The members of ruling circles regarded themselves as the heirs of Greece and Rome; they were conscious of the ancient past and could draw from it. Naturally, over the course of centuries adaptations were made to meet new conditions as they arose. Almost parallel to the rise of the Ottonian kings, Byzantium became a medieval state. Yet, substantial elements of Roman civilisation endured: The literary and scientific inheritance of Rome was preserved in scholarly circles and monastic scriptoria; the Empire likewise remained urban and centralised in its structure. Even in difficult periods of Byzantine history, the uniform system of taxation and finance continued to function and interregional trade ensured the supply for the cities. High-quality goods like silk textiles and masterful enamelled works were appreciated internationally.

The contribution of the Byzantine Empire to modern Europe is far more important than we are aware of. Because Constantinople resisted Arab expansion, the medieval West could continue developing. The christianisation of all of Southeastern and Eastern Europe, the Balkan countries, Ukraine and Russia was conducted by Byzantium; Cyrillic script was developed by Byzantine missionaries. The European legal system is based on the Corpus iuris civilis promulgated in Byzantium under the emperor Justinian I. The Italian Renaissance received substantial impulses from Byzantine erudition, not least from the classical Byzantine painting. Even Turkish culture is likewise partly based on Byzantine antecedents: for example, the typical architecture of the mosques developed from the Byzantine domed churches.




Necklace, Constantinople (?), around 600, RGZM, Mainz, © RGZM, Mainz


I. The problem of the sources
The extant sources from the Byzantine Empire are modest in comparison with their significance for European history. Historians must do with relatively few written sources since only fragments of the once rich archives survived today. Of the magnificent palaces and public buildings almost nothing remains. In essence, a few churches and their furnishings inform us about the size of the last ancient state in the Middle Ages. For this reason archaeological research is even more important, since its potential is nearly unlimited and its methods, in part due to the contributions of natural sciences, continue to develop. Only in the last decades special attention has been given to daily life of the general population of Byzantium, and there are new results from all regions of the Byzantine Empire that can be placed in a larger context. German and Austrian institutions are leading or involved in many of these undertakings.

II. The planned exhibition
The exhibition will make use of magnificent and historically meaningful exhibits and important artefacts from collections and archaeological excavations to shed light on many aspects of the history, archaeology and art of the Byzantine Empire. It will offer an overview of the “Byzantine Millenium” (from the foundation of Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 324 A.D. to the conquest by the Ottomans in 1453), but will concentrate above all on the prospering of the Empire from the time of Justinian I (527–565 A.D.) until the plundering of Constantinople by western crusaders in 1204. The main questions of the Byzantine state, Byzantine art and culture, society, economy, the Byzantine military, as well as daily life, etc., are to be discussed on the basis of “scenes”, by means of which these themes can be made highly accessible. The “scenes” will be reconstructed and animated with the help of computer graphics; archaeological finds will thus “speak”. Animated films will introduce the respective sections of the exhibition. The planned exhibition will also illustrate the achievements of the various disciplines that have contributed to our understanding of Byzantine culture, and thus have enabled an understanding of the present: above all Byzantine studies, art history and archaeology, along with few other related issues.




Portrait of Constantine I, 325–330,


The Ancient Afghanistan Collections Exhibition











The Driwan’s  Cybermuseum



A 1st century AD Roman Egyptian enameled glass goblet discovered in Begram, Afghanistan, is seen on display in an exhibition entitled ‘Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World’, . The exhibition is showcasing over 200 objects belonging to the National Museum of Afghanistan which is currently undergoing reconstruction and accompanied by selected items  

The  latest exhibition displays ancient artifacts in gold, glass, stone and ivory from Afghanistan, a country whose fortune, and curse, has long been to lie at a crossroads of cultures, traders, artists and armies.

That these objects have survived for thousands of years is remarkable. That they have survived the last three decades of Soviet invasion, civil war, Taliban vandalism and continuing conflict seems little short of a miracle.

The items in this touring show, whose London leg was being opened Tuesday by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, were thought lost in the destruction of the National Museum of Afghanistan in the 1990s. In fact, they had gone underground, hidden away just before the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 by museum staff, who kept the secret, despite personal risk, during the years of Taliban rule.

“Many times they brought forces to the National Museum (to ask) ‘Where are these artifacts?'” said Abdul Wasey Feroozi of Afghanistan’s institute of archaeology.“We said, ‘We don’t know.’ Nobody gave answers to anybody about where these objects were.”

Seventy percent of the museum’s artifacts were wrecked or looted during the post-Soviet chaos or destroyed by the fundamentalist Taliban, who demolished much of the country’s pre-Islamic art in the belief that it was idolatrous.

But two years after the Taliban regime was toppled by a U.S.-led 2001 invasion, Karzai announced that six safes full of objects had been found in an underground vault in the grounds of the presidential palace. When archeologists and museum curators cut into the cases with circular saws, they found a treasure trove — 22,000 gold items from a 2,000-year-old nomadic burial ground, some of which form the climax of the current exhibition.

“Being in that bank vault was like being in Tut’s tomb,”said National Geographic Society archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert, who spent two years cataloguing the treasures and still bubbles with enthusiasm for the find. “It was all unexpected. I had been among the ranks of scholars to say, ‘These things are lost.'” 

This collections  hadn’t seen  in years and were uncertain of their fate, were ecstatic to find they had survived.

“All of a sudden,”Hiebert said, “the Afghans realized that they themselves had saved their cultural heritage.”

The exhibition of that heritage features artifacts from four remarkably different ancient societies, all found within the borders of modern-day Afghanistan — a Bronze Age farming civilization, a classical Greek city, a Silk Road palace and a nomads’ cemetery.

They attest to the vast range of influences on the strategically located Central Asian land.

One room features artifacts from Ai Khanum, a Greek city in what is now northern Afghanistan, complete with houses, temples, a gymnasium and an amphitheater. Founded by a general of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in 300 B.C., it was a piece of Greece on the steppe, whose relics include sundials, the heavy tops of Corinthian columns and a statuette of the hero Heracles.

Also on display are treasures from China, India and the Roman Empire, hidden 2,000 years ago at Begram — present-day Bagram, site of a major U.S. air base north of Kabul. Archeologists are still debating whether it was the warehouse of a merchant moving goods along the Silk Road or the treasures of a palace, hidden for safekeeping during an invasion.

The most dazzling artifacts are also the most surprising, because they belonged to nomadic steppe dwellers who otherwise left few traces of their civilization.

Uncovered in 1978 at a site aptly known to locals as Tillya Tepe, the Hill of Gold, were 22,000 golden objects — crowns, daggers, bracelets, amulets, earrings and bowls — inside the graves of five women and a man from the 1st century A.D.

Adorned with a cross-cultural mix of symbols — Persian lions, Greek heroes, Indian swastikas — they are, Hiebert said, “an art we had never seen before in Afghanistan, a true Silk Road art.”

“It was the first window on a whole new culture,”he said. “Unfortunately, that window closed suddenly in 1979.”

The motto of the Afghan National Museum is “A Nation Stays Alive When Its Culture Stays Alive,” and the exhibition reveals what a difficult process that can be.

The show opens with a small stone statue from the Greek period of a naked boy. Already damaged when it was dug up in 1971, it was restored and put on display in the museum. It was decapitated by the Taliban before being restored and put on display again — headless but proud.

New excavations in Afghanistan remain hampered by war and the huge challenge to national reconstruction.

“Archaeology,” Hiebert noted, “is not the highest priority.”

The Kabul museum has been restored with the help of international donations. It also receives a share of income from the exhibition, which has already toured Europe and North America — but has gained a new postscript in London.

The final room of the exhibition displays delicately carved ivory inlays, showing scenes of bare-breasted women, exotic animals and mythical beasts that adorned Indian-made furniture built 2,000 years ago.

Like so much else, the ivories were missing and presumed lost, but were recently purchased by a London dealer who handed them back to Afghanistan. They have been restored by British Museum experts and after the exhibition closes will be returned to the Kabul museum.

British Museum director Neil MacGregor said they were a fitting close to the exhibition’s story of “creation, of exchange, of destruction and recovery.”

“We wanted,” he said, “to end on a note of hope.”

“Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World”


Gold crown from Tillya Tepe, 1st century AD. Image: National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

This astonishing object was found in the tomb of a nomadic woman. It was designed and assembled from different pieces which allowed it to be folded when not in use. It is the ultimate example of portable nomadic wealth.


Gold bowl from Tepe Fullol, 2200–1900 BC. Image: National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

This fragment was part of a large group of gold and silver vessels found at Tepe Fullol in northern Afghanistan. Its discovery in 1965 suddenly revealed new evidence for the early antiquity of the region. The design on it resembles that of bulls shown in ancient Mesopotamian art – the two regions were connected by trade.


Corinthian capital found at Ai Khanum, before 145 BC.  Image: National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

Ai Khanum is the modern name of a Hellenistic Greek city built on the banks of the river Oxus (Amu darya) in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. Extensively excavated by French archaeologists in the 1960s and 1970s, it gives an almost complete city plan. The architecture is a combination of local tradition and imported Classical styles.


Enamelled glass goblet from Begram, 1st century AD. Image: National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

This was made in Roman Egypt and exported by sea via the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to India. It was then brought overland to Begram which was the summer capital of the Kushan Kingdom. It was found in a storeroom at the heart of a palace. The decoration shows a scene of people harvesting dates.


Indian ivory furniture support from Begram, 1st century AD. Image: National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

A large number of heavily decorated pieces of furniture were found in the palace storerooms at Begram. The wood had disintegrated but the ivory and bone inlays survived. These were originally heavily painted. The style of carving suggests they were imported from India.


Inlaid gold pendant from Tillya Tepe, 1st century AD. Image: National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

This is one of a pair of identical pendants found in a tomb. It shows a figure subduing a pair of mythical beasts. It is heavily inlaid with different coloured materials, including turquoise, garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and pearl, some of which are long-distance imports. This underlines the position of Afghanistan on the crossroads of the world