Sotheby’s Hong Kong Chinese Works of Art 2023 Spring Sales Series will take place on 8 April, led by the Dr Alice Cheng falangcai bowl. The masterpiece will be offered in a stand-alone single lot auction and is expected to fetch in excess of HK$200 million/ US$ 25.5 Million. Dr Alice Cheng’s Falangcai bowl ranks among the most legendary pieces ever to have been offered at auction and broke a world record for Chinese art when it was sold in 2006 for HK$151,320,000. It is a gem of Imperial porcelain, the delicate, creamy white body having been painted by master court enamellers in Beijing in close proximity to the Qianlong emperor. The superb painting of two loving swallows beside a flowering apricot tree intertwined with a willow tree is complemented by a short poem evocative of the spring. During the latter years of the Qing dynasty in the late 19th century, the bowl and its pair entered the collection of Captain Charles Oswald Liddell, whose collection was sold in 1929. Thereafter, one bowl entered the collection of Sir Percival David, the greatest private collector of Chinese Imperial porcelain in history, and is today the pride of the British Museum. The present bowl meanwhile entered the collection of Charles Ernest Russell, Barbara Hutton, J.T. Tai, Tianminlou, Robert Chang and since 2006 has been the crown jewel of the celebrated collection of Dr Alice Cheng.
Falangcai as the Rarest and Most Sought-After Imperial Ware
Falangcai (‘foreign colours’) – porcelains painted in the imperial workshops of the Forbidden City in Beijing– are the rarest and most sought-after wares of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). The idea that porcelains from Jingdezhen could be enamelled close to the imperial living quarters, to enable the emperor to follow and examine the results first-hand, was initiated by the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722) late in his reign. Pieces painted with such sparse and refined motifs from nature as seen on the Dr Alice Cheng bowl, ‘wrapped’ around the vessel like an unrolled handscroll, were produced in Beijing for only a very short period. They are characteristic of the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735) and the present bowl with its imperial Qianlong reign mark (1736-1795) must date from the earliest years of that period. In quality and decorative style, it would be difficult to distinguish from Yongzheng examples. This small group of porcelains, today mostly preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, represents the peak of painting on porcelain, an artistry that was never surpassed – or even equalled – in the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen under the supervision of Tang Ying.
Dr Alice Cheng was born in Shanghai and grew up surrounded by fine objects. Her grandfather, Zhang Jiru, was a famous carver who Empress Dowager Cixi once even commissioned to work. Her father, Zhang Zhongying, was a celebrated antique dealer, in whose footsteps her brother Robert would later follow and build the illustrious career that we know in the field of Chinese art. Alice, a free spirit, went on to build an extraordinary career in business and take an active role in various social issues. She is also very well-known in the world of philanthropy, generously supporting causes in Hong Kong and the mainland, such as improving cultural development, education, health, and wellness of ethnic minorities and fighting poverty. Alice Cheng has devoted much of her resources and time to charitable causes.
More information: https://www.sothebys.com/en/