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  • Gu Embroidery

    Text/Iris Zhang "To sew birds and blossoms onto petite squares of cloth, and to paint portraits on fragrant sachets, with craftsmanship so fine, setting it apart from distant realms." —From Songjiang Prefecture Chorography, Ming Dynasty Embroidery is a revered traditional Chinese craft rooted in the country's rich history. Its poetic essence sets it apart from the male-dominated world of Chinese painting. It is a poetic expression closely tied to ancient Chinese women, a continuous and enduring verse delicately imbued with warmth. This art form encapsulates patience and embraces tranquility and serenity while embodying resilience. In addition to renowned embroidery genres like Hunan Embroidery, Cantonese Embroidery, Sichuan Embroidery, and Suzhou Embroidery, which are celebrated for their regional influences and cultural diversity, this essay will focus on Gu Embroidery. Gu Embroidery, also known as "Lu Xiang Yuan Xiu" (露香园绣), traces its origins to the Gu family in Shanghai during the Ming Dynasty. Characterized by a distinct literati temperament, Gu Embroidery boasts high cultural and collectible value. Gu Embroidery was established by Miao, the concubine of Gu Huihai, son of Gu Mingshi, who achieved the status of a Jinshi (a successful candidate in the highest imperial examination) in the 38th year of the Jiajing reign of the Ming Dynasty in Songjiang Prefecture. It is the only embroidery style that bears a family name. The granddaughter-in-law of Gu Mingshi, Han Ximeng, excelled in the techniques of embroidery and the use of color, significantly elevating the artistic essence of this embroidery style. Gu embroidery is often referred to as "painted embroidery" due to the fact that embroiderers meticulously replicate patterns from renowned paintings, particularly those by famous painters. Embroiderers employ ultra-fine silk threads and over ten complex stitching techniques. Additionally, Gu utilizes intermediate colors not found in traditional embroidery, allowing embroiderers to realistically depict the rich colors in natural scenes by blending medium shades to complement and layer colors. Playing with selecting and processing materials, applying stitching techniques, and coordinating embroidery colors enables their works to achieve the threefold realm of "resembling a painting, reflecting the craftsmanship of heaven, and capturing the hues of dye." This is a significant characteristic that distinguishes Gu from the typical decorative style of folk embroidery, imparting a sense of literati aesthetics while pursuing the expression of artistic connotations. Lot 679, A Chinese folding screen with four embroidered court scenes, 16th/17th century In our Winter 2023 Fine Chinese Art and Antiques auctions, Lot 679 stands out as a magnificent example of Gu embroidery—a set of four folding screens featuring embroidered court scenes dating back to the 16th/17th century. The subject matter is drawn from the Tang dynasty's "Yin Hua Lu," specifically the story of Fenyang King, Guo Ziyi's birthday, narrated by Zhao Lin. The scene portrays twenty-five characters of varying ages and genders, each depicted with lifelike precision, capturing subtle expressions that make them come to life. Detailed images of Lot 679, A Chinese folding screen with four embroidered court scenes, 16th/17th century The composition strictly adheres to the principles of literati painting, employing a simple and refined color palette that beautifully conveys the grace and sophistication of feminine aesthetics. Silk threads are expertly harnessed, utilizing techniques such as the wrapped stitch, joining stitch, rolling stitch, and diagonal stitch, among others. The key pigments in use encompass stone blue, stone green, and ochre. The attire worn by the figures begins with an initial application of the base color, followed by the intricate embroidery of textures. Facial features are embroidered before being painted, and for flowers and trees, only the outlines are emphasized, with all remaining details painted directly with a brush. As for the landscape, it is painted directly. This bold and innovative approach, seamlessly merging embroidery and painting, mutually enhances one another, bringing the characters to the forefront while vividly portraying the fluidity of the natural environment.

  • Appreciating Blue-and-White Shang Vases from the Late Qing Dynasty

    Text/Iris Zhang The Shang vase (赏瓶) is the pinnacle of Chinese porcelain art, with its origins dating back to the Yongzheng period, Qing dynasty. Served as gifts that specifically honor deserving government officials, its form remained relatively consistent across successive dynasties, characterized by a flared mouth, an elongated neck, ornate shoulder decorations featuring raised string patterns, a rounded body, and a foot ring. Usually, Shang vases featured fixed patterns: blue-and-white banana leaf motifs adorned the neck while intertwining lotus patterns decorated the body. This symbolism carries profound meaning, where "青" (blue) embodies "清" (purity or clarity), and "莲" (lotus) represents "廉" (integrity or honesty). The combination of "青" and "莲" encapsulates the societal aspirations of the late Qing dynasty, reflecting a desire for a "transparent and honest" government. Image 1-4: Lot 129, image 5-8: Lot 128, courtesy of Oakridge Auction Gallery Lot 129 and Lot 128, both blue-and-white Shang vases, are highlighted in our Autumn 2023 Chinese Art and Antiques auctions. These exquisite vases come from the Xianfeng period (1851-1861) and the Guangxu period (1875-1908), embodying the distinctive traits of late Qing dynasty blue-and-white porcelain. Blue-and-white porcelain, characterized by its underglaze technique, involves an initial application of cobalt blue on a plain base, followed by glazing and a single firing. The blue-and-white layer is nestled between the body and the glaze. During the late Qing dynasty, cobalt blue was predominantly used in blue-and-white porcelain production. The domestically sourced cobalt blue patterns do not penetrate the body, creating a pronounced floating effect on the glaze. Lot 129 and Lot 128 both utilized cobalt blue sourced within the country. During the Guangxu period, domestically sourced cobalt blue was primarily obtained from the southern region, particularly Zhejiang province. This variation in cobalt blue sources is evident in the contrasting blue-and-white patterns of these two items. Lot 129 exhibits a milder color tone that harmonizes seamlessly with the glaze, whereas Lot 128 boasts a richer and deeper shade. Upon closer examination of the shapes and glaze of the two, you can find that Lot 129's body is slightly more delicate compared to Lot 128. The body's glaze appears whiter and thinner, and there is a "wave-like glaze" on the bottom of the vase. Lot 128, from the Guangxu period, has a fuller shape and a more complex body. The Xianfeng's reign lasted only eleven years. During this period, the Qing court faced internal and external challenges. Jingdezhen (the primary production place for official kilns) was surrounded by warfare, and later, the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded. As a result, there are relatively few surviving exquisite artifacts from this era, and they have always been highly sought after and treasured by collectors. Lot 129, therefore, is listed as one of the highlight items in this auction. Among the surviving Xianfeng-era porcelain inscriptions, the reign mark primarily consists of six characters in regular script, which read "大清咸丰年制" (Made during the Xianfeng reign of the Great Qing Dynasty). In the Guangxu era, there was a certain level of growth in the national economy, ushering in a short-lived period of prosperity referred to as "Tong Guang Zhong Xing" (同光中兴). To meet the demands of their opulent lifestyles, the Qing court allocated substantial funds to support porcelain production in Jingdezhen and implemented enhanced quality control measures. This led to a notable enhancement in both the quantity and quality of porcelain manufactured during this period. The renowned official kilns in Jingdezhen had either reached or approached the standards seen during the early Qing dynasty.

  • Through the Eras of Japanese Ukiyo-e

    By: Heather Herbstritt Unanimous with Japanese art and culture are the country’s masterful ukiyo-e or woodblock prints. Dating as far back as the 8th century, when the medium was used to circulate Buddhist iconography, the popularity of woodblock prints grew exponentially during the later Edo period (1603-1868). Under the peaceful rule of the Tokugawa shogunate, urban populations not only developed but flourished, creating a wholly new market for artisan goods. Meeting this demand was the skillful hand of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Publishing series and prints commemorating the breathtaking beauty of Japanese landmarks, such as Mount Fuji, Hokusai is one of the great masters of Japanese ukiyo-e. His contemporary, Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), was an equally vital woodblock artist whose work will be offered in Oakridge’s upcoming Summer Discovery Sale on June 28th. Despite the era’s fascination with the medium, the age of ukiyo-e experienced a sudden halt with the collapse of the Edo and rise of the Meiji period (1868-1912). Rapidly changing on technological and political fronts, Meiji era Japan experienced both a growth in industrialization and increased foreign involvement in the Nation’s affairs. As a result, the peaceful and colorful floating worlds of the Edo ukiyo-e fell out of favor in Japan, with many of the woodblock masterpieces being exported to satisfy a expanding Western market for Japanese art. Come the end of the Meiji era in 1912, the character of the country had altered significantly. Over the sixty year period, the once farming and feudal nation had modernized from the imposition of the West, resulting in greater mechanization and mass production. In direct opposition to this rapid industrialization arose the Mingei movement, meaning “folk art” or aptly “art of the people”. Its aim was preserving and reviving traditional Japanese artisan skills and crafts. The movement adhered to a philosophy of finding artistry in everyday objects and believing in the hand made over the factory made. While influential across several mediums, notably ceramics and textiles, the movement also contributed to the rejuvenation of ukiyo-e. Artistic interest in the traditional medium grew once again, producing a plethora of new graphics and styles. Representing this distinct 20th century revival in Oakridge’s upcoming auction are the serene landscapes of Hiroshi Yoshida’s (1876-1950) Plum Gateway and Kiyoshi Saito’s (1907-1997) Winter in Aizu. However, the prints resulting from this marriage of traditional modes and modern artists were not limited to ukiyo-e. Oakridge’s upcoming sale exemplifies the diversity of Mingei prints with the inclusion of artist Sadao Watanabe (1913-1996). Famous for his stencil dyed biblical prints, Watanabe derived his printmaking technique of kappazuri from Okinawan textile dyeing taught to him by Keisuke Serizawa (1895-1984). Watanabe’s synthesis of numerous historical Japanese techniques with Western themes in distinctly Japanese settings evokes core tenets of Mingei. Of the array of Watanabe's works to be offered by Oakridge, The Last Supper is truly a treasure. Editioned 2/70, the work is not only valued for its low numeration but its masterful use of pigment, Japanese iconography, and adherence to Mingei principles. Whether you are enamored with the colors of the Edo masters, the serenity of the ukiyo-e revivals, or the craft style of the Mingei movement, do not miss this opportunity to witness centuries of Japanese printmaking in this phenomenal auction. Richly complex both historically and artistically perhaps you will join their history as a collector. Works Cited Brandon, Reiko Mochinaga., Julia M. White, and Yoko. Woodson. Hokusai and Hiroshige : Great Japanese Prints from the James A Michener Collection, Honolulu Academy of Arts. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in association with the Honolulu Academy of Arts and University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 1998. Meech Julia. n.d. “Early Collections of Japanese Prints and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Metropolitan Museum Journal Vol. 17 (1982). Niglio, Olimpia. “100 Years of Mingei Movement in Japan.” Esempi di Architettura, January, 2022./http://www.esempidiarchitettura.it/sito/journal_pdf/PDF%202022/2.%20NIGLIO_EDA_1_2022.pdf.

  • La Tolita-Tumaco: Fragments of Identity

    By Kendall Hanner The territory of present-day Colombia offers an invaluable opportunity for the advancement of anthropological studies and discourse of indigenous cultures and identities. Amongst the dozens of tribal identities existing throughout Colombia, prior to Spanish colonization at the close of the sixteenth century, are unique enclaves of cultural artifacts. With sparse to no written historical records of these civilizations, these artifacts have been irreplaceable in piecing together the histories of these indigenous civilizations. Oakridge Auction Gallery’s offering of a culturally-immersive collection of Pre-Columbian works of art serves as an opportunity to contribute knowledge and awareness to the field. Scheduled as Part III of our June 28th, 2023 Discovery Sale, the prolific Pre-Columbian collection includes cultural works original to the Quimbaya, La Tolita-Tumaco, Muisca, Nariño, and Sinú identities. Perhaps one of the better-known Pre-Columbian cultures, for their iconic elongated head manipulations, are the La Tolita-Tumaco. Settling primarily in modern Ecuador and the southern coast of Colombia around the time of 600 BCE, the La Tolita developed an advanced social, religious, and distinct cultural identity. Reaching the climax of stylistic maturity between 200-400 CE, the La Tolita established villages centered around a plaza, characterized by earthen mounds, known as tolas, reserved as residences for the elite. In addition to these residential constructions, archaeological evidence reveals the La Tolita to have built religious headquarters, with ceremonial centers and political complexes. The pillaging and cultural erasure of the La Tolita set forth by Spanish colonization has resulted in an irreparable loss of artifacts and information. The loss prohibits scholars from formulating a more cohesive idea of the belief set and social class system that necessitated such community structures, leading to the reliance on often fragmentary findings. Through observation and analysis of the tangible surviving artifacts, scholars have been able to theorize their use and significance. The aforementioned elongated head formation holds stylistic and cultural significance. Modeled by this pair of La Tolita figures, featured as Lot 264 of the Pre-Columbian sale, the contour of the head protrudes vertically before extending backwards. This stylistic implementation can also be observed throughout several of the thirteen total La Tolita humanoid fragments offered in ceramic group lots, as pictured below. The stance of the figures is leaned forward, as if beginning to bow. In tune with the majority of La Tolita ceramics, the figures are constructed from gray clay paste, characterized by a grainy and slightly porous texture. Considering the volume of observable remnants suggesting a sophisticated religious and cultural system, the intentionally-deformed cranium is believed by most scholars to indicate an elite or divine status. The artistic replication of this practice bolsters this theory, with the pair of figures perhaps serving as a devotional or ritual object. When considering a global lens of explanation for the deformity, performed by binding the desired body part at early stages of osteo development, the relationship between head size and intellect comes to mind. Or, similarly, a larger-than-human head suggesting divine, otherworldly knowledge. It is through the findings of well-documented and legally obtained artifacts and works of art that fragments of a nearly lost cultural identity can be pieced together to unearth a more comprehensive understanding of South American indigenous groups. The preservation and analysis of artifacts found within this Oakridge collection offer a depth of knowledge and recognition to an often neglected culture of beauty and sophistication. References: Scott, David A. “The La Tolita-Tumaco Culture: Master Metalsmiths in Gold and Platinum.” Latin American Antiquity 22, no. 1 (2011): 65–95. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23072516.

  • Art & Splendor in the Ming Dynasty: The Rise of the Jade Artisan

    By Heather Herbstritt In 1368 A.D. the young soldier, Zhu Yuanzhang, soon to become Emperor, successfully invaded Beijing, ending decades of Yuan Mongolian rule with the establishment of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Spanning over 200 years, the dynasty was a period of artistic and cultural development centering around the rebirth of Chinese traditions in the wake of Mongolian and Manchu rulers. This inward focus on the revival of scholar-artists, court-defined styles, and painting, harkening back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), led to an era of artistic splendor. Often commended for their porcelain, Ming dynasty artisans were also celebrated for their masterful jadewares. Although a long celebrated material in Chinese culture, the dawn of the Ming dynasty marked an important social shift for jade craftsmen. In previous centuries, jade carvers experienced a relatively low social status, characterized by lower commission rates and often unsigned carvings. However, new developments in the court-art structure, notably artisans being granted greater artistic freedom, elevated the social status of these craftsmen. The new esteem associated with the position incentivized jade artisans, contributing to the exponential production of carvings in Ming dynasty China. In tandem with this was the appearance of individual jade carvers’ signatures and a drastic change in the subjects of jade carvings. The inward focus of the Ming dynasty directed artisans' eyes to themes of everyday people and life. While primarily serving courtly patrons, the dynasty’s later economic growth created a new market for jade collecting, further driving artistic production and development. Resulting from this increased demand, the splendor of Ming jadewares grew immensely. The techniques were further refined and the types of carved objects expanded: dishes and cups, scholarly items, jewelry, and small figurines being popular examples. Illustrating the diversity and quality of Ming jades are over 15 lots to be offered in Oakridge’s auction Chinese Jade & Ceramics - No Reserve to be held June 2, 2023. Comprising jade bi, beast-form carvings, and plaques the sale offers a collector the opportunity to expand their collection of finer jades. To a collector of courtly or jewelry arts, the auction features an array of carved jade necklaces; splendorous in both execution and condition. Works Cited Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Ming dynasty." Encyclopedia Britannica, April 8, 2023. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ming-dynasty-Chinese-history. Department of Asian Art. “Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ming/hd_ming.htm (October 2002). Hearn, Maxwell. Ancient Chinese Art: The Ernest Erickson Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. Lawton, Thomas, Shen Fu, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Milo C. Beach. “Jade” in Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery The Inaugural Gift. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1987. Yu, Ming. Chinese Jade. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

  • Balancing Manchu and Han Culture: Qing Imperial Textiles

    By Kendall Hanner With the fall of the long-reigning Ming dynasty and the establishment of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty came an onslaught of economic, political, and social transitions that redefined life in China throughout the 17th-early 20th centuries. The ruling regime navigated the pressures of legitimizing their dynastic reign as a continuity of the Mandate of Heaven, and maintaining a balance of Manchu culture and the native Han Chinese, resulting in centuries of reform and adaptation. Although unique court costume regulations were required for preceding dynasties, the Qing installed a staggering set of these regalia guidelines upon their ascent to rule. These costume regulations culminated in the 1748 review and edict, Huangchao liqi tushi; a Confucian-derived code of dress believed to link mortal, earthen vessels with universal forces. The edict enacted a strict social class order, which corresponded with a specific code of garment materiality, color, and motifs permitted to be worn. The Manchus believed that a full-scale integration of Han cultural continuity would result in the overthrow of their dynastic rule, but a fully Manchu cultural code would draw unrest from the native Han constituents. This considered, aspects of Ming dress were incorporated into Qing court attire, such as the dragon motifs and the traditional chao fu. While maintaining this aspect of Han continuity, the Qing restructured the traditional court robes to adhere to the Manchu semi-nomadic lifestyle by introducing hoof-style cuffs and an overall fit that accommodated their horse-riding culture. This design reform can be observed in this early 19th century blue-ground kesi robe, offered as lot 531 in Oakridge’s upcoming Chinese Textile sale on June 4th, 2023. The robe exemplifies this fusion of cultures through its inclusion of the central five-clawed long dragon with a flaming pearl, intricately depicted with goldwork, and the sporadic placement of bat motifs, signifying imperial continuity, within a Manchu-style garment framework. Although the Manchus accepted and recognized the various folk religions and philosophies, namely Confucianism and Taoism, the Qing heavily leaned into Tibetan Buddhism following their conquest of Tibetan and Mongolian territories. Visual motifs found within this offshoot of Buddhism permeated into Manchu imperial attire, despite Tibetan Buddhism occupying only a minority of religious identification amongst Qing constituents. One of the most frequently employed sets of Tibetan Buddhist motifs are the eight auspicious symbols, several of which can be observed in the embroidery of a 19th century red-ground dragon robe, offered as lot 502 in the upcoming Textile sale. Amongst the traditional Chinese shou longevity characters and brightly-colored clouds, one can find the flaming dharma wheel, a parasol, a pair of golden fish, lotus, and the endless knot. The result is a harmonious blend of Manchu and Han visual culture, producing its own hybrid of a unique Qing style. Works Cited Chan, Wing-Ming. “The Qianlong Emperor’s New Strategy in 1775 to Commend Late-Ming Loyalists.” Asia Major 13, no. 1 (2000): 109–37. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41645557. Dreyer, June Teufel. "Multiculturalism in History: China, the Monocultural Paradigm." ORBIS 43, no. 4 (1999): 581. Gale Academic OneFile (accessed April 13, 2023). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A56750451/AONE?u=googlescholar&sid=googleScholar&xid=311e333a. Elverskog, Johan. “Things and the Qing: Mongol Culture in the Visual Narrative.” Inner Asia 6, no. 2 (2004): 137–78. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23615343. Thorp, Robert. Son of Heaven: Imperial Arts of China. Seattle, Washington: Son of Heaven Press, 1988. Vollmer, John E. “Clothed to Rule the Universe.” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 26, no. 2 (2000): 13–105. https://doi.org/10.2307/4104402.

  • Early Chinese Flower Painting & Xie Gongzhan's 'Chrysanthemums'

    By Heather Herbstritt Offered on the third day, March 18th, of Oakridge’s Spring Fine Asian Art and Antiques auctions are a visually diverse and historically rich collection of Chinese paintings and calligraphies. Notable among them are a curated selection of exquisite flower paintings, consisting of handscrolls, hanging scrolls, and fans. Dating back to the 10th century, the long tradition of flower painting in China presents a fascinating perspective on the blossoming of Chinese art. Emerging as the initial ‘great’ masters of the flower painting genre were artists Huang Ch’üan (903-968) and Hsü Hsi (10th century). Huang Ch’üan fathered a floral style that valued an intensity of color, an adherence to realism, and an attention to precision. His technique consisted of carefully placing color within fine contour lines, this evolved among his apprentices into the ‘boneless’ style where color was applied freely and without the confines of a rigid outline. In comparison, the flowers populating the works of Hsü Hsi are defined by skillfully layered washes. Hsü composes his natural world without the use of line or color, rather swaths of ebony ink define the scene through skillfully built up layers. Although stylistically divergent, Huang and Hsü’s respective techniques continued to mold Chinese flower art and artists long after their lives. Their concern with capturing the reality and essence of flowers inspired artists to strive not solely for static realism but the emulation of the ephemerality of flowers and nature. Active centuries after these masters, the works of painter Xie Gongzhan (1885-1940), to be featured in Oakridge’s upcoming sale Chinese Paintings and Calligraphies, illustrate the continued impact of Huang and Hsü’s foundational techniques. Serving as a Professor of Chinese literature and poetry in universities across China, Gongzhan was an avid painter of flower scenes and subjects. His paintings can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Hong Kong Museum of Art; and have been featured in the auctions of Christie’s and Bonhams. Of the plethora of flower-and-bird scenes painted by Gongzhan, one of his most enduring subjects was the chrysanthemum. A long favored blossom in the history of Chinese flower painting, often associated with a scholar’s gardens and autumn, Gongzhan’s chrysanthemums are prized among his artistic oeuvre. Of the three Gongzhan paintings to be offered at Oakridge’s upcoming sale, Lot 489 features that characteristic flower, the chrysanthemum. In a marriage of styles, Gongzhan uses the fine line illustrations of Huang in the dark dry unfurling petals of the chrysanthemums; yet their plump dewy leaves lose any sense of line and instead adhere to Hsü’s style of building up form through layers of wash. These brush techniques in tandem with Gongzhan’s restrictive use of color, hints of white ghost along the petals and deep unsaturated greens capture rotund leaves, illustrate Gongzhan’s unique style that is enchantingly mindful of the genre’s history and yet completely individualized. References: Barnhart Richard M and Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York N.Y.). 1983. Peach Blossom Spring : Gardens and Flowers in Chinese Paintings. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gong Zhan Xie." Askart.com. Accessed March 8, 2023. https://www.askart.com/artist/Gong_Zhan_Xie/11200825/Gong_Zhan_Xie.aspx. Harrist Robert E. Jr. n.d. “Ch'ien Hsuan's Pear Blossoms : The Tradition of Flower Painting and Poetry from Sung to Yuan.” Metropolitan Museum Journal Vol. 22 (1987).

  • Global Artistic Essence: Zhang Daqian and Chinese Expressionism

    By Kendall Hanner The life of Chinese painter, Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), coincides with a period of substantial modernization, and transformation of visual culture. The international radicalization of aesthetic tastes, a product of a rapidly globalizing world, is marked by deviations from academic artistic traditions and style. This phenomenon is prolifically recorded in scholarly discourse, typically centralized within a Eurocentric lens. The mid-twentieth century paintings of Zhang, widely accepted as a Chinese master painter, push the boundaries of preceding traditional Chinese nature and literati painting. The abstraction of line and form is on clear display within the two Zhang compositions to be offered at Oakridge’s Chinese Painting sale on March 18th, 2023 as lot 517. The composition depicts Damo, a Buddhist monk best known as Bodhidharma outside of China, who is perhaps most revered for his persistence in meditative and religious concentration. Upon first glance, the painting appears to be in accordance with traditional Chinese landscape style, with mountainous peaks protruding from behind wispy branches extending across the horizontal plane. While the religious and natural subject matter of Zhang’s 1932 composition are in tune with its predecessors, the brush strokes and application of pigment align more closely with the rising global movement of abstract expressionism. Only identifiable from Zhang’s accompanying inscription, the figure of Damo is loosely rendered, visible only from the back and clad in a red robe with a bamboo cane resting on the shoulder, wading through water towards the edge of the frame. The illusion of water is produced with faint light gray, nearly indiscernible, contours representing the current and light refraction. Perhaps most curious of Zhang’s stylistic choice of these loose brushstrokes is the ambiguous nature of forms, appearing as both, gentle waves or fluffy clouds. The technique of loose, organic ink application carries into the foliage draping from the feather-edged branches, appearing as linear drips, as if melting. Zhang’s global travels and residences he amassed throughout his career, spanning from California to Brazil, are partly responsible for the integration of artistic techniques and styles developed beyond the confines of China. Equally beneficial to Zhang’s globally-inspired craftsmanship were his studies of textile weaving and dyes in Kyoto. During his training, the artist was introduced to the Nihonga movement, which encouraged a widened inclusivity of stylistic elements, while maintaining the materiality of traditional Japanese art. In doing so, Zhang achieved mobility to experiment with globally-derived techniques. Perhaps the most conducive to observing Zhang’s deviations from traditional Chinese landscapes and figural compositions is comparison with contemporaneous works. Also offered at Oakridge’s upcoming March sale of Chinese paintings is a masterfully crafted landscape by Yuan Songnian (Chinese, 1895-1966) as lot 432. Conversely to Zhang, Yuan fills the canvas with short brushstrokes to create the illusion of a rocky, mountainous landscape, accented by densely packed greenery. So tightly rendered are Yuan’s contour lines that a steep staircase leading to the water’s edge is clearly defined. The artist establishes depth, notably absent in Zhang’s work, through the inclusion of mountain tops in the distance by using a lighter toned gray than that used in the foreground. In comparing the two works, the expressive, loose forms of Zhang’s Damo in a landscape become undeniable. Certainly not a product of lack of skill, considering Zhang’s experience copying master works of Buddhist art he observed on an excursion to the Dunhuang cave paintings. Furthering the case of Zhang’s artistic abilities is his reputation to expertly forge Chinese old master paintings. This considered, the motivation for rendering the scene in this manner is likely correlated with the artist’s internal interpretation of the subject - a central concept of expressionist movements occurring outside of China. With the selection of Damo as the sole figural representation, it could be considered that Zhang’s use of expressionist lines is a reflection of the meditative persona of the famed monk. The contemplative, transcendental aura, achieved by the artist’s global lens of stylistic techniques affords a rare opportunity for any collector to introduce such a work of Chinese expressionism into a collection. References: Cahill, James, and Jerome Silbergeld. “Chinese Art and Authenticity.” Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 55, no. 1 (2001): 17–36. https://doi.org/10.2307/3824253. “New Asian Art: A Synthesis of East and West.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 58, no. 3 (2001): 38–47. https://doi.org/10.2307/3269185.

  • Buddhism & Beloved Bodhisattvas: The Origins and Art of Guanyin and Tara

    By: Heather Herbstritt Oakridge is pleased to present two auctions of Chinese Jade & Ceramics and Chinese Jade, Ceramics & Works of Art on February 8 and 9 beginning at 9am EST, featuring a selection of Buddhist sculptures dating as far back as the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Offered among the variety of bronze and wood Buddhas are Lots 320 and 343, two notable examples of beloved female Bodhisattvas. Buddhism originated as a practice in Northern India following the life and spiritual teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni). Its earliest presence in China is traceable to the Eastern Han dynasty (25-200 CE), while waxing and waning in popularity throughout subsequent dynasties. Despite the practice’s origins in South Asia, the visual culture of Chinese Buddhist art developed its own stylistic language and independent identities. Unique to Chinese Buddhism is the appearance of Guanyin, a female variant of the Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara. Assuming the attributes of Avalokiteshvara, Guanyin became a widespread symbol of compassion and later an identity for several Imperial Empresses, notably Empress Dowager Cisheng (1545-1614). Within Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who remained earth-bound to assist others in reaching nirvana. In this role as an enlightenment guide, Guanyin is a celebrated Buddhist figure in Chinese culture, inspiring a plethora of statues, paintings, and ceramics. Exemplary among this rich visual history is a gilt-wood sculpture of Guanyin, to be offered as lot 343 on February 9. Raised to seventeen inches tall (43cm), this wood carving embodies the reverence Chinese culture holds for the Bodhisattva. The symmetrically seated Guanyin exudes a serene expression, featuring the characteristic Buddhist urna while vested in simple robes cascading over her lotus-pose (padmasana) meditation. Gently pressing her palms together, Guanyin forms the anjali mudra, a symbol of greeting and adoration, allowing this sculpture to seamlessly integrate into any collection or Buddhist home. In addition to this sensitive Guanyin is another Bodhisattva to be offered on February 9 as lot 320, a gilt-bronze seated figure of Tara: a highly revered female Bodhisattva/Buddha in both Indo-Himalayan and Chinese Buddhist practices. Her image is traditionally associated with ‘universal mother’ and ‘liberator’ types. Born from the lamentations of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the beautiful Tara emerged from a lotus, seeking to liberate all practitioners from suffering and deliver them to Nirvana with kindness and compassion. The profuse adoration of Tara throughout the Buddhist world manifests beautifully in this devotional Chinese bronze of the deity. While ascertaining attributes of an enlightened being—notably the elongated earlobes, beaded string worn by bodhisattvas, and meditative pose—she radiates a welcoming expression evoking her role as ‘liberating mother’. Characteristic of Chinese depictions of Tara, she sits straight and poised upon a stylized lotus gently gesturing the varada mudra towards the viewer and endowing her blessings. Flanked on either by stylized lotuses, a universal attribute of both Tara and Buddhism, this sculpture embodies this Buddha's efforts to achieve enlightenment. Presented together at Oakridge, these artworks of Guanyin and Tara offer an exemplary opportunity for collectors and auction lovers to both incorporate and behold the centuries of artistic Buddhist tradition. References: Ables, Kelsey. “The Complex Meanings behind Hand Gestures in Buddhist Art.” Asrtsy.net. March 28, 2019. https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-complex-meanings-hand-gestures-buddhist-art Leidy, Denise Patry, and Strahan, Donna. Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (New York: MetPublications, 2010). https://books.google.com/books?id=GFa0uSleDNwC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false Pham, Kevin. “Compassion, Mercy, and Love: Guanyin and the Virgin Mary.” Metmuseum.org. The Met Perspectives. May 7, 2021. https://www.metmuseum.org/perspectives/articles/2021/5/virgin-mary-guanyin Shaw, Miranda. “Tara, the saviouress.” in Goddess: divine energy, 211-220. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2006.

  • Chinese Literati Painting on Porcelain- The Story of Qianjiang Enameled Ceramic Art

    by: Kendall Hanner Offered alongside an exquisite selection of Chinese porcelains in Oakridge’s upcoming sale of Chinese Jade, Ceramics, and Works of Art on February 9th as lot 254 is a Qianjiang enameled vase by late Qing dynasty artist, Zhu Shao Quan (mid 19th century-early 20th century). The vase, measuring nearly two feet in height, offers an expansive canvas for the artist to compose a cohesive figural scene alongside calligraphic poetry inscriptions. To one side, Zhu has depicted a standing group of five elderly scholars, gathered below vibrant foliage of an overhanging tree. The grouping is identified as the ancient Han dynasty philosopher, Confucius (551-479 BCE), and his students by an adjacent poem. Four separate poems ornament the square vase – two to the neck and two to the body. In conjunction with its poetic counterpart, the depiction of birds interacting within tangles of floral and vegetal motifs are perhaps the pinnacle of Qianjiang ceramics, aimed to take after the Chinese tradition of literati painting. The tradition of literati painting finds its roots in the late Song dynasty as an attempt to unite the arts, literature, and self-expression of the artist’s psyche. This movement of pairing natural landscape ink paintings with calligraphy was built upon in the subsequent Yuan dynasty, and its style expands in the 19th century into the tradition of Qianjiang enameled ceramics. Zhu embraces the literati tradition of artistic self-expression with his inclusion of a poetic inscription, doting upon his confidence in his own artistic and intellectual abilities. In tune with contemporaneous Qianjiang ceramics are Zhu’s peach and apricot blooms of a deep magenta, rosy pink, and a soft green. Encapsulated in the flora is a plump, red-breasted bird with vibrant green backside and blue-tipped wings, perched atop a wiry green branch protruding across the center of the visual plane. The accompanying poem praises the season of Spring for its bountiful floral blooms and the reemergence of fauna from winter hibernation. Zhu specifically remarks on the cool, springtime breeze and the soft current of a river. The intellectual artist concludes his sentiments of self-expression with advice to the reader to live life to its fullest extent through appreciation of the natural world, the value of youthhood, and constant work towards self improvement. Zhu Shao Quan’s Qianjiang vase contributes to the perseverance of the lineage of Chinese literati painting, immortalizing the renowned literary skills and craftsmanship of Chinese artists who preceded its application into ceramic mediums. Intensifying the value of this specific example is the inclusion of the Guan yao nei zao four-character mark to the underside – an indication of the vase’s production in an imperial kiln. This considered, the vase assumes an elevated intrinsic value amongst Qianjiang ceramics, offering a rare opportunity for Asian art collectors to integrate such a masterpiece into their collection. References 1. Eskenazi, Guiseppe. Seven Classical Chinese Paintings. Eskenazi Gallery, London, 2009. 2. Hyland, Alice R. The Literati Vision: Sixteenth Century Wu School Painting and Calligraphy. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1984, pp. 12. 3. Koh, N.K. Qianjiang Ceramics Painting- A Gem of Late Qing Period. Koh Antiques, 6 Mar. 2020, http://www.koh-antique.net/qj/qianjiang.html. 4. “The Role of Poetry in Chinese Painting: Christie's.” Christie's | Stories, Christies, 25 Nov. 2016, https://www.christies.com/features/The-role-of-poetry-in-Chinese-painting-7941-1.aspx.

  • Oakridge to offer rare early Qianlong five-neck vase

    Our upcoming Asian Arts sale features a rare five-spout vase complete with a seamless glaze application. This form is incredibly uncommon and also bears an early Qianlong mark which was only used for two years before the adoption of the more often-seen Qianlong mark. Its intriguing form paired with an uncommon reign mark makes it an exceptional piece. Its flambe glaze, also known as Jingdezhen Jun, is a technique that was pioneered in the 18th century to replicate Jun ware produced during the Song dynasty centuries earlier (Gotheborg). Its streaked appearance is the result of iron, copper, and other metals in the glaze reacting with one another under the intense heat of the kiln. The unique combination of light blue and rosy red, reminiscent of water meeting a raging fire, complements its smooth curves. The ringed foot is double-glazed with a grey-white layer over a deep brown layer, imitating the wares of the Jun kiln. Stay tuned for more information about this upcoming sale!

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