[Coromandel screen, Qing Dynasty, Kangxi period, Sotheby's.]
This twelve-panel Coromandel screen -- lot number 145 in Sotheby's upcoming fine Chinese works sale -- is going into Courtney's Ultimates File. Not because of its substantial auction estimate, though, and only partly because of its rarity.
According to Sotheby's auction catalogue, screens with complex compositions of birds, flowers (here magnolia and peonies), and animals all together in a garden landscape are quite scarce. With its crisply rendered spotted deer, and depiction of both land and sea, this one happens to be exceptional. Pairs of mating birds and layers of symbolism signifying longevity and bliss add to its desirability. But the rich color palette is what first drew me in.
While the ground may appear black on your computer screen (or iPhone, iPad, or other tablet), it's actually a deep midnight blue. Against that are gorgeous blue-greens, yellows and warm rusty shades. Sure, it's easy to picture it in a completely classic, dressed-to-the-nines room, but I'd also love to see what Barrie Benson or Kevin Haley might mix with it.
[Qing dynasty, reticulated pale celadon jade, Sotheby's Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale, September 14.]
From the same sale, this 18th-century Chinese perfumier stopped me in my tracks, too.
I guess I've been saying this over and over for years now, but -- along with the expected Chinese art and design tomes -- Vivienne Tam's small-yet-powerful Chinese style primer, China Chic is one of the best, most enduring sources of inspiration and education. This fall, with Chinese and Chinese-influenced design so prominently on view, the book is a must-re-read. I'm still hunting for a first edition with the glossy red cover.
For more ideas, see Peonies and Pagodas and August Rush 2011.