As expected, the main highlight of one of Lempertz‘ best auctions of Asian Art to date – with a total result of 3.2 mill. Euro and of significantly over 100% of the total valuation – was the imperial Kangxi-Period Buddha Amitayus, the Buddha of eternal life, from ca. 1680 – 1700, which sold for €784,000. A further surprise highlight was a painting by Qi Baishi, which achieved €496,000. The majority of the lots in this auction were consigned from private collections throughout Europe – England, France, Belgium and Germany – and all sold excellently. The Japanese department also achieved numerous impressive increases, confirming Lempertz’ loyalty to the art of Japan. Although many Chinese customers were present in the saleroom, this auction also saw a significant rise in the number of online bidders, especially for Japanese art.
Worship of Amitayus is thought to guarantee eternal life and reincarnation in paradise. During the Qing period, he was the most widely venerated Buddha of the imperial family, who followed the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The emperor frequently commissioned groups of Buddhist devotional figures to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries within his family or to give as gifts to temples. The inside of the figure contained a paper label from the Georg Hartmann collection (1870–1954), in which it was kept before 1920. Following a heated bidding battle, the figure eventually sold for €784,000 (lot 94).
In spite of the cautious catalogue attribution “in the manner of Qi Baishi” (1864–1957), several bidders were convinced that the work listed under lot 70 was an authentic product of this artist. The painting in India ink and colours on paper depicted a pair of paradise flycatchers and peonies and was the subject of a lengthy bidding battle. The winning bidder was eventually able to acquire the piece against strong competition for the impressive sum of €496,000: Creating a record price for Qi Baishi in Germany. The work, measuring 103 x 34.5 cm, was consigned from a Berlin collection of Chinese painting, pieces from which Lempertz has sold successfully in the past years (lot 70, est. €12–15,000).
A steep increase was also achieved for a shallow, Ming dynasty style dish with incised anhua décor. The 34 cm diameter bowl was raised from the estimate of €15–25,000 to make €72,000 (lot 195). A 50 cm high, 17th/18th century fire-gilt bronze figure of Longnü consigned from a French private collection was purchased by a Chinese art dealer for €49,600 (lot 97, est.
€40–50,000). A painting by Wang Xuetao (1903 – 1982) showing dragonflies, lotus flowers and a frog was sold to a Chinese bidder for €24,800 (lot 72, est. €8–10,000). A large Chinese wood and lacquer cabinet from the second half of the 16th century, formerly belonging to the von Helmersen collection, sold for €34,700 (lot 243, est. €30–40,000). A late 19th century military court official’s suit of armour (gingjia) from an old Austrian private collection was also sold to a Chinese bidder for €24,800 (lot 182, est. €20,000).
Alongside the Chinese works of art on offer, this spring auction also featured numerous works from Korea. A painting by an anonymous Joseon period (1392–1910) artist, estimated at
€8–10,000, attracted numerous bids and was eventually acquired by a Korean client for €34,700 (lot 64). A presumably late 18th century white-glazed ceramic bowl from a German collection was sold to an American bidder for €31,000 (lot 197, est. €8–10,000).
Highlight among the Japanese works on offer this spring was a 120 x 221.5 cmcalligraphic work (reading “shoku” – belonging, connected) by Inoue Yûichi from 1976. The strongly competed work was raised from the estimate of €10–12,000 to achieve €59,500 (lot 891).
A highlight of the woodcuts on offer this spring was a piece formerly kept in the collection of Fedor Siebeth entitled “Ôhashi Atake Yûdachi”, from the series “100 views of Edo” (Meisho Edo Hyakkei) by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858). The work was sold to a Japanese collector for €18,600 (lot 739, est. 15–20,000). A further success among the woodcuts was a depiction of a courtesan by Isoda Koryûsai, which rose from the estimate of €2.2–2,500 to achieve €12,400 (lot 663).
A 17th/18th century partially gilt-lacquered wooden figure of Amida Nyorai, previously kept in the Captain Jack Simpson collection, was sold for €32,200 (lot 892, est. €20–30,000). An 18th/19th century Sômen face guard from an old Austrian private collection was also raised far above the estimate to achieve €22,300 (lot 1155, est. €6–8,000). A further impressive price increase was achieved by an early 20th century incense box (kôgo), which was estimated at €700–800 but rose to €22,300 (lot 1138).