Chinese antiques of hope, death and heaven lead the way in New Orleans

In a few days' time, St Charles Gallery of New Orleans will be offering a wide range of antiques, art and other collectibles in a major estate auction.

Whilst everything from walking sticks to three-part mirrors and even a carved ivory model of an Imperial barge are on offer, there are three Chinese lots which quite obviously steal the show.

Firstly, a fine and rare Chinese carved Jadeite statue of the Bodhisattva Guanyin, from the 18th century or later, carved in the round depicting the goddess standing clad in loose robes and wearing a cowl over her coifed hair, attended by two acolytes and holding a newborn infant.

Chinese Bodhisattva jade guanyin
Chinese jade Bodhisattva Guanyin

The reverse of the 11 inch tall statue is carved with lotus flowers and leaves. The stone consists of mainly bright "apple" green with some white mottling and a natural fissure on the side of the cowl indicating that the carver utilized the largest amount of the raw stone while exhibiting as much of the brilliant green stone as possible.

The statue is attached to a carved rosewood base in the form of an open lotus blossom; this base is supported by an elaborate ivory base of Indian inspiration in creamy ivory with black veining which is most often associated with stocks of ivory held in the Imperial Palace workshops.

This stock of ivory is more often seen in small objects, most notably ivory snuff bottles carved in the Qianlong and Jiaqing reigns of the Qing Dynasty in the Imperial Workshops.

The subject of this carving, Guanyin, is associated with compassion and is venerated by Buddhists as Guanshiyin, meaning "she who hears the cries of the world", and also by Daoists as an Immortal.

It is believed the origin of the deity was India, as the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, where the deity was male and was actually a depiction of the Buddha when he was still a prince. The piece is expected to bring $50,000-80,000 and would make a fine investment.

From many centuries earlier comes a rare Chinese Jade Burial Suit, of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) or later, the suit being composed of a head, torso, arms, legs, shoes, gloves and headrest formed of jade plaques wired together with metallic wires.

Chinese jade burial suit
Chinese jade burial suit

The breast plate of the torso has a central medallion in the form of a phoenix with encircling tail feathers carved in low relief indicating that the suit was probably intended for a female and the head is embellished with eyes, tubular nose and mouth with applied features though these may not be original.

The individual jade plaques forming the suit exhibit extensive calcification, most having an opaque white appearance, and the wires joining the jade plaques exhibit brittleness. This eerie and amazing piece is expected to bring $150,000-300,000

It's companion piece and rival for top lot status is a rare and impressive Chinese Serpentine Cong (Zhong), also from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) or later.

Congs were a Chinese jade form begun in the late Neolithic Period, consisting of a hollow cylinder or truncated cone enclosed in a rectangular body. The cong was used as a ritual utensil during sacrificial and burial ceremonies.

The slightly mottled dark and pale brown stone fashioned in slightly tapered square section with a central circular interior, the exterior fashioned with an unusually large number of sections totaling thirty-three, each of horizontal orientation with incised designs of stylized human faces having circular eyes and nose and linear eyebrows, each side with a central vertical cut-through.

Han dynasty Cong
Han dynasty Cong

Congs are generally accepted to have been used as ritualistic items, the squared exterior representing earth, the circular core representing heaven, and the combination of the two representations symbolizing the union of the two in worship of both.

The cong is expected to sell for $150,000-$300,000 in the auction, which takes place in New Orleans and online over four days starting January 22, 2011.


Join our readers in over 200 countries around the world - sign up for your free weekly Collectibles Newsletter today 

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock