Celadon jade seal with upper estimate of €150,000 leads Asian art sale

Collections of Prof Sean Mackey and Ormond Antiques feature in Adam’s Asian art sale

With 456 lots from China, Vietnam and Japan, and categories including bronzes, paintings, ceramics, jades and stones, the latest Asian art sale from Adam’s has plenty to excite collectors and occasional buyers alike. A highlight is an important celadon jade seal with an estimate of €120,000-€150,000.

The upcoming live online sale on Monday, December 18th, bears the title Ji Guang’s Feathers: ”a metaphorical expression [that] signifies precious relics or cultural artefacts... likened to the feathers of the mythical beast Ji Guang from ancient Chinese mythology”.

The sale offers the collection of the late Prof Sean Mackey, who in 1956 moved from Dublin to the University of Hong Kong to take up the post of Taikoo professor of engineering. By 1968 he had helped to establish the Hong Kong branch of the Institution of Structural Engineers, was awarded an OBE by the British government, and in 1978, as a result of his voluntary work, was honoured by the Vatican with a knighthood of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

During his 21 year tenure in Hong Kong, Mackey developed an interest in Chinese art, and with frequent trips to the then renowned antique stretch at Hollywood Road expanded his collection. One of the highlights of his assemblage is a rare famille rose porcelain figure of Guandi, the god of war, seated on a tiger (lot 138, €800-€1,000).


Also featured is the Ormond Antiques’ collection, which is a three-decade collection of Marion Newman and Blanche Handelman, the duo who established Ormond Antiques in the 1960s. Highlights include a rare pair of bronze cloisonné enamel Wu Du Tu narcissus bowls (lot 310, €2,000-€4,000).

Leading the sale in terms of estimates is an important celadon jade “Gu Xi Tian Zi Zhi Bao” seal, (lot 219, €120,000-€150,000). Seals such as these were essential tools for authentication, and as symbols of power were crafted from various materials, with jade seals highly prized.

A rare European collection of Qing Dynasty kingfisher feather ornaments grace the catalogue’s front cover, aiming to recreate, “with historical accuracy how the ornaments would have been worn as head pieces”. Renowned for their emerald colours, kingfisher feathers have been used for over 2,000 years to adorn fine art objects ranging from hairpins to panels and screens. It is thought that 100,000 birds alone were used to restore the phoenix crown worn by the queen of the Ming Dynasty, and pieces in the sale, which have Italian provenance, range from €300-€1,500.

A most unusual offering is lot 292, a rare Qing imperial style antler armchair. Though it looks rather uncomfortable it is a late copy of one of only seven known surviving deer antler chairs, five of which are in The Palace Museum in the Forbidden City at the heart of Beijing. Sourced from antlers from deer captured during royal hunts, the piece, from a private French collection, dates from the 20th century, and is expected to fetch between €85,000 and €95,000. adams.ie

The latest sale from Adam’s coincides with a new senior appointment. Dr Wei Wang has joined the auction house as head of Asian art. Dr Wang, who holds a PhD in semiology from Panthéon-Assas Paris II University, studied the art market at the EAC Group in Paris, and worked as a consultant to more than 100 French auctioneers in Asian art prior to joining the Dublin auction house.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables