Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

The beginning of 2010 saw the tenth anniversary of Knapton Rasti Asian Art Ltd. Our first catalogue was published for the Asian art week of 2001 and contained a number of Chinese works of art made for the Muslim elite within China itself.

This year we have included several more of these rare pieces, among which are porcelain and bronzes. It is increasingly difficult to find this material, so we are particularly pleased to offer a Zhengde blue and white dish (no. 83) with Persian script. It emerged from a Dutch collector who had purchased it at Christie’s, London, in the mid 1990’s. Fifteen years may seem a short time but in the recent life of the Chinese art market and its price index, it is an aeon.

The bronze incense burner (no. 79), which was bought in England, has taken an interesting voyage over the years. Presumably cast in China for a Muslim member of court, or a high ranking official elsewhere in the country, it passed through the hands of a well known Cairene antique dealer around the beginning of the twentieth century and from Egypt came to the United Kingdom.

This catalogue has an interesting section of Chinese Mughul inspired jades and works of art from India and Turkey, rendered in the same material. The greyish celadon coloured pen box (no. 63) is of great rarity. Although there are examples of the religious and literati’s study such as Qur’an stands, crutch handles, archers’ rings, mirror backs and spice boxes, there is no sign of another example of a qalamdan. Its origins are not easy to pin down, but the designs and type of jade place it further west than India and closer to the iron and bronze masterpieces of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Western Iran and Eastern Turkey.

If the Moghul inspired pieces are often technically proficient and intricately worked, the complete opposite is to be found in the unadorned simplicity of our white jade bowl (no. 45). The shape pulls it back to the Ming Dynasty, and maybe earlier, with its slightly turned in rim, the thickness of its walls, but above all the colour of the stone and its polish. If a work of art has a soul, this one does.

The animals are varied and of a high quality, with the recumbent horse (no. 35) and its reddish brown russet patches reminiscent of the paintings of the Italian Jesuit court painter Giuseppe Castiglione, with the formal sculpture of the horse being subsumed into a pebble form, both European and Chinese in thought. The white stone is of the highest quality and its translucency gives the animal a real life force.

We have two paintings of horses to complement the jade one and both date to the Ming Period. The Central Asian hunter (no. 87) encapsulates our cross cultural works of art and appears in the book, Paintings in the Far East. Laurence Binyon, the author, was a poet, dramatist and art scholar and is best remembered for his poem ‘For the Fallen’ every Rememberance Sunday. Although dated Tang in the book, subsequent scholarship has place this group in the mid Ming times.

Christopher Knapton, Nader Rasti