Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Swann Galleries’ Early Printed Books Auction

Central Asian travel books exceeded expectations at Swann Galleries’ Spring Early Printed Books Auction.


Sir Marc Aurel Stein, Serindia: Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, first edition, Oxford, 1921. Sold April 12, 2016 for $18,750. (Pre-sale estimate $6,000 to $9,000).

New interest in the adventures of the Silk Road during the late 19th and early 20th century sparked these extraordinary prices.  I am aware that Sir Aurel Stein also removed a collection of books and manuscripts from the famous Dunhuang caves……..  And some of us are still waiting to go…..especially to the Taklamakan desert — if only briefly!


Elisabeth and Natasha



An interesting situation developed for a Chinese National Treasure— a painting hanging in the Forbidden Palace in Beijing and by some scholars long thought not to be the original by the Five Dynasties court painter Zhou Wenju (active  942-961) but a rendering by the Sung  Emperor Zhou who delighted in rendering or making studies of earlier masterworks— an activity often encountered in Chinese art.


The book “Original Intentions” edited by Nicholas Pearce and Jason Steuber deals extensively with productions, reproductions and interpretations in the arts of China (University Press of Florida 2012). Such later renderings of original works of art make it often enormously difficult to authenticate Chinese paintings. And who is to say whether  the original or the  exact rendering of the original should be worth more?
Now a painting has surfaced in New York  that is thought to be the original  done by the artist himself. The painting will be offered by Gianguan Auctions, formerly Hong Kong Auctions on March 19th. The painting is titled “Chess Game abut of Screen”.
I am curious who is behind Gianguan Auctions?  A quick internet search:
Gianguan Auctions

Gianguan Auctions (also known as Hong Kong Auctions) specializes in Chinese and Asian arts and has a wide clientele from China and Asia. Established in Hong Kong in 2002, a New York office opened in 2004. Four times a year, auctions are held at the Lefcourt Building on New York’s Madison Ave. Under the management of Mr. Kwong Lum, Gianguan has successfully sourced high-quality consignments that has resulted in record prices. Recently, Mr. Lum was appointed by Beijing’s National Museum’s Appraisal Centre as its chief consultant, an exceptional honour, which solidifies their reputation as experts in Chinese, antiques.

Gianguan Auctions Fine Chinese Art Auctions include an important selection of American Chinese private collections of traditional painting and calligraphy, bronzes, porcelain, jade and scholars items, dating from the Soong Dynasty to contemporary time with representations from each period”.

Go to to see the catalogue of their upcoming auction.
Elisabeth and Natasha

Recomended Titles

I recently came across a few very interesting books that I wanted to share with you.

 McDermott, Hiroko T. and Pollard, Clare, Oxford, 2012.
thredFor years I have tried to convince clients, collectors  and dealers of the merits of late 19th/early 20th century Japanese textiles, some made for export. These are very accomplished embroideries, often with resist-dye silks and velvets, tapestry works,  and appliqué – used for large textiles but also for  kimonos we so much admire. I believe they were  and  still are not appreciated so much because they date from a relatively late period but one forgets that many of these techniques are no longer used today and have become rare. The textiles and kimonos once used are no longer in demand. If you find an artist in Japan who still works with these techniques, his/her works are often more expensive than the older version.
I believe this is the first English language book  on this subject.
So enjoy this book!
2. Something on a controversial subject — because not so much understood by Westerners. It does not have to be controversial!
Pearce, Nicholas & Steuber, Jason, Gainesville 2012.
2This book deals with the old question of authenticity – in Chinese culture everything has a precedent,  and paintings, sculpture and other works are produced, reproduced, replicated not so much to fake but to render something  according to  and in hommage to earlier masters. This approach goes back all the way to antiquity when jade and bronze pieces from earlier periods were replicated. Later emperors excelled in producing wares imitating such earlier renditions.
There is a fundamental difference between faking to cheat – detested by the Chinese scholar and artist, and copying a work of art; the difference is clearly expressed in the language of Chinese connoisseurship –intention is everything.  The books deals with ceramics, paintings, sculptural pieces and paintings.
3. Ending with a Japanese artist who was born at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) when Japan opened up to the West and western ideas, western perspective.
Marks, Andreas, Petaluma, 2012
3Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942) was one of Japan’s leading artist, designer and art instructor. He led the revival of the 17th century Rinpa style while at the same time  creating modern designs  in ceramics, lacquer ware, textiles and woodblock prints, combining Japanese and Western design influences.  I especially admire his woodblock prints which can be bold and elegant at the same time. The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford, California  had an exhibition about Kamisaka Sekka in summer  2012 featuring his paintings, scrolls and prints.
Read and Enjoy!
Elisabeth and Natasha


February 7, 2013 Leave a comment
I have heard the name since I was small and I always thought it was a magical name of a place that only existed in fables — but later  I realized  that Timbuktu in Mali located in Central Africa was a real place and had been a center for learning starting in the 11th century.  Islamic and pre-Islamic books and documents were kept at libraries — many of which were privately owned or sponsored.  In 2009 the  Ahmed Baba Centre for Documentation and Research was opened to house some 30,000 documents.


At the time this library was destroyed  and burned to the ground — see images before and after — by extreme Islamists — more than 60,000 documents are said to have been brought together. The word in the international press is that over 90% were spirited out of the country in May 2012. This must have been an amazing effort to save the documents not only of religious texts, but astronomy, physics, medicine, music and history. Islamists attack not only women forcing them to wear veils, whipping and stoning citizens if they do not conform to  their version of Islamic law,  but they also attack things that cannot fight back like the Bamyan Buddha statues In Afghanistan and libraries in Timbuktu.


old-220x165Timbuktu was an
important center of Islamic learning and a major trade center  (gold and salt) at the cross roads of the Sahara Desert. Caravans as well as Muslim pilgrims brought wealth to the city as it grew in  importance as a major learning center with a university.The city near the Niger River was founded in the 11th century, was sacked by invaders from Morocco in 1593 and fell to the French in 1894. Before there were universities in Europe there was the medieval University of Timbuktu with a student population of about 25,000, within a city of about 100,000. A wide variety of subjects was taught in addition to religion, including science, mathematics, medicine and history.
Where is the inclusiveness and tolerance that could be found at the empire of Mali in Africa and at the court of Akhbar the Great in India?

Titles From the C.T. Loo Library Will Be Featured at Christie’s Upcoming Auction

It is always exciting if as an appraiser or dealer, one comes across a piece with C. T. Loo (1880-1957) provenance. He was one of the first and probably the most well known art dealer from China who established his business in Europe. His helped put together several major private and museum collections. He also acted as a consultant to Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller in the early part of the 20th century. I recently came across an article by Yiyou Wang who researched the Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports Online. Mr. Wang related that there was always fierce and secretive competition between art dealers. Before the 1930s, the well known Duveen brothers were major suppliers of Chinese ceramics to American collectors. Eventually, C. T. Loo took over and procured many pieces.Maybe we can learn more about the man C. T. Loo by learning about the books he kept.

Christie’s auction house is presenting “In Pursuit of Knowledge: A Collection of Asian Art Reference Books” at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City, commencing at 10:00 a.m. on 13 September (lots 801-929). This Asian art book sale with primarily a Chinese focus, features more than 120 titles which are useful in the study of Asian art, as well as for unearthing the history of collecting in the 20th century. These volumes are from private collections, and offer the opportunity to come across scarcely found and out of print Asian art catalogues, references, academic journals, etc. Price estimates range from $ 500- $ 15,000.

In addition to volumes owned by C.T. Loo, a highlight of this auction include eleven titles showing the private collection of George Eumorfopoulos (1863-1939) — one of the founders of the Oriental Ceramics Society in London. Six of the titles are authored by R. L. Hobson, bearing the title “The George Eumorfopoulos Collection: Catalogue of the Chinese, Corean, and Persian Pottery,” which are estimated to be priced around $ 6,000-$ 8,000. The other five titles are authored by Laurence Binyon, with the title of “The George Eumorfopoulos Collection: Catalogue of the Chinese, Corean, and Siamese Paintings,” which are estimated to be priced around $ 3,000-$ 5,000.

An illustrated catalogue of Chinese Imperial Prince Gong’s spectacular collection (1821-1850) will also be featured at Christie’s auction. This auction catalogue displaying Prince Gong’s magnificent belongings, was published in early March of 1913 and is estimated to sell between $ 4,000-$ 6,000. (Gong is Romanized as “Kung” in Wade-Giles Chinese.)

With an estimated selling price between $ 8,000-$ 10,000, a catalogue entitled “Catalogue of Chinese Pottery and Porcelain,” displays Sir Percival David’s (1892- 1964) private collection of Chinese ceramics. Documented by R. L. Hobson, and published in 1934, David’s collection was thought to be one of the most substantial private collections of his time.

Another prized volume at Christie’s auction, will be the “Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art” (1935-1936). This catalogue features the most prestigious Chinese art exhibitions, collections, and works — documented from royal, national (Chinese), and private hands — borrowed from various nations worldwide. The estimated price range for this volume is $ 1,000-$ 2,000.

I am curious to see the outcome of this auction, as there are several intriguing books listed that are virtually unobtainable today!

An online article by Artdaily which discusses Christie’s upcoming auction may be found here:

This is a link for Christie’s online article about the Asian art reference book auction:


Elisabeth and Natasha

Fabulous Book Sale by the Paragon Book Gallery

The Languages of Adornment

One of my favorite book stores — Paragon Book Gallery of Chicago — has a sale section featuring fifty to ninety percent off of hundreds of titles. For example, “The Language of Adornment: Chinese Ornaments of Jade, Crystal, Amber and Glass,” was $ 65 and is now offered for $ 9.95.

Here is a link to the Paragon Book Gallery website:



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One of my favorite magazines


has a wonderful article on  Ainu Textiles by Virginia Soenksen who most recently was  curatorial assistant at the Clark Center for  Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford, California.  The pieces featured belong to the collection of Thomas Murray a very well known dealer in Asiatica and Ethnographica.

The article explains the traditions of the Ainu mainly found on Hokkaido, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.  Ainu garments, extensively made from elm fiber, have the most striking  geometric motifs, with designs executed with appliqué,  embroidery and also beading. Unfortunately the article cannot be accessed on-line but if you are interested I can scan in the article.

Just to give you an idea of Ainu garments – this robe is from the Commons Gallery, Art Building, University of Hawaii @ Manoa.