Hirado Sleeping Cat, Japan, 19th Century

About six miles south of Japan’s ceramic center of Arita, lies Hirado Island in the northwestern part of Nagasaki Prefecture, home of the Matsura family and also the Mikawachi, or Hirado kilns that produced, according to experts, some of the finest white porcelains the world has ever known.

Its location near the Korean Peninsula was responsible for the settlement of Korean potters who were the spoils of a Japanese invasion in the late 16th century. Almost immediately, Korean style kilns were set up to produce stoneware, since Japan lacked the technology to produce porcelains, but when kaolin, the basic ingredient in porcelain was discovered in Mikawachi village in the mid 17th century, very high quality porcelain was produced under the complete control of the Matsura feudal lords.

For nearly a hundred years, from 1751 until 1843, all products from the kilns belonged to the Matsura family, but with the disintegration of Japan’s feudal system in the mid 19th century, financial support for the enterprise waned and export contracts were established with the Dutch East India Company.

Hirado ware was highly prized by Victorian Europe and demand for products exploded. Great international expositions of the late 19th century showcased the exquisite quality of Hirado, but modern industrialization contributed to the decline of Hirado and the kilns were permanently closed in the early 20th century.

This 19th century Hirado bisque cat sits with its eyes closed, possibly sound asleep. Meticulous attention has been paid to the sublime facial expression, the anatomically precise body, and the animal’s fur, which looks almost natural. It is incised with the Hirado mark in the base. Almost undetectable professional repairs to both ears.

10.5 inches high

26.67 cm high


Walasse Ting, LIthograph, Good Morning 25

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Walasse Ting (1929 – 2010), was a self taught Chinese born artist who spent 6 years studying in Paris where he developed relationships with members of the short-lived (1948 – 1951), but very influential Avant-garde art movement known as CoBrA, which was an acronym for Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam, where most of the founding members originated. This lithograph on Arches Paper, titled Good Morning 25, measures 35 x 26 inches, and is from a series of prints created in 1974 as an homage to his friend Sam Francis, a member of CoBrA.
46 x 26 inches
88,9 x 66.04 cm

Neolithic Jar, China. 3rd Millennium BC

The term Stone Age was a broad prehistoric period lasting more than 3 million years, during which stone was widely used to make tools with an edge, a point, or a percussion surface. It has been classified into three loosely identified periods, The Paleolithic (Old), The Mesolithic (Middle), and the Neolithic (New).

The Neolithic Period is recognized as the period in time when man began to farm, which was more than 12,000 years ago in the Middle East, and ended with the development of bronze, which varied radically in man’s timeline depending on the location in the world.

More than 20 different Neolithic cultures existed in different parts of China from at least 10,000 years ago until about 1500 BC, but none produced ceramics as beautiful as the painted pottery of the people of The Majiayao culture in the Upper Yellow River region in Northern China from 3300 to 2000 BC.

The Majiayao culture was also divided into three distinct periods, the Majiayao, The Banshan, and Machang.

This large painted red pottery jar dates to the Neolithic Majiaya culture, and its use of both dark red and black paint clearly identifies it as from the Banshan period. It features a sloping upper body with a pair of lug handles applied at mid-body. The sweeping black spirals create four roundels filled with a bold red circle encasing fishnet patterns, all above a wave band that circles the jar at mid-body. The cylindrical neck with a slightly flared rim and the inside lip of the mouth are painted in wave and fishnet patterns.

China, 3rd Millenium BC

11  x 12.5 inches

27.94 x 31.75 cm


Cut Velvet Panel, China, Ming/Qing Dynasty, 17/18th Century

Russet colored velvet panel with undercut shades of gold and blue probably used as a chair cover divided into three sections, with each section displaying cut velvet cartouches, the first in a four-lobed oval lozenge presenting a pair of phoenix among scrolling tendrils, while the other two are roundels with 9 stylized lotus flowers and scrolling leaves.  Mounted with a gold brocade border of chrysanthemums on a golden teak panel frame.

40 x 14.5 inches

101.6 x 36.8 cm


Chinese Handscroll, Wedding Procession of Zhongkui the Demon Queller, 18th Century

China’s Tang Dynasty (618-922 AD), whose capital Chang’an (present day Xian) was the largest city in the world, continued the practice of earlier Dynasties to offer imperial examinations for civil servant positions within the government. During that time, a young man named Zhong Kui went to take the examinations and took for a traveling companion, a friend from his village, Du Ping.

According to legend, Zhong achieved the highest possible scores on his tests and was awarded the highest honors, but when the emperor saw him at the presentation, Zhong’s grotesquely disfigured head caused the emperor to withdraw his award. Zhong was so upset, he committed suicide on the spot by repeatedly slamming his head into a gate at the palace. Shortly thereafter, his friend Du Ping buried him.

When Zhong Kui met Yama, the wrathful Hindu god who presided over Naraka (similar to hell, where unpleasant tortures await each guest for a lengthy period of time before rebirth into a higher world), he so impressed Yama by his intelligence and because he was committed to damnation in hell for his suicide, Yama made him the King of the Ghosts, forever to hunt, capture, maintain and order ghosts.

He returned to his hometown on Chinese New Year’s and to repay Du Ping for his kindness, offered his younger sister in marriage. To this day, his image protects homes and businesses from intruding demons and evil spirits.

This anonymous, oversized Chinese ink-and-color handscroll illustrates the Wedding Procession of the Sister of Zhong Kui , the Demon Queller. In this painting, the closely attended bride sits on a palanquin carried by demons, as she leads the procession. She faces backward to watch her brother, Zhong, riding on a donkey while Du Ping rides a buffalo, as demons, with grossly distorted heads, carry supplies needed for the event.

Provenance: The Carmen M and Allen D Christensen Collection, Atherton, CA

Previously on loan to the Iris and B Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University, Loan number L.8.16.2008,  Qing Dynasty (1644-1910 AD), probably 18th century

16.50  x 65 inches 

41.9  x 165.10 cm 


Large Swatow Charger, China, 15th Century

Large Swatow export ware charger, in typical Swatow enamels of black, red. green, and blue, with ships, mountains, , and flowers surrounding a central roundel with ducks and lotus, the overall decorations very stylized and rapidly drawn, and typical of Swatow ware, the foot glaze retains sand from firing.  Ming Dynasty, 16th century

15.25 inch diameter

38.7 cm diameter


Jizhou Tortoise Shell Tea Bowl, Southern Song Dynasty

A  rare Jizhou ‘tortoise shell’ tea bowl of conical form gently rising from a small circular foot to a wide mouth, encircled by an exterior “finger-groove’ around the lip, covered inside and out with a variegated glaze of dark brown, mottled with irregular splashes of translucent glaze of amber-colored and russet tones, ending above the unglazed foot, exposing the light buff ware underneath. Southern Song Dynasty, 11th century

4.75 inches

12 cm

Price upon request


Kesi Panel, Birds and Plum Blossoms, Chinese, 19th Century

Kesi (woven silk) panel with gilt ground, featuring a pair of swallows and plum blossoms above rocks and bamboo, Chinese, after a painting by Cui Bai and signed “Cui Bai”, 19th century.

43 x 25.25 inches

109.2 x 64 cm


Tang Prancing Horse, Painted Pottery

The Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), considered the Golden Age in Chinese history, in which many elements of human culture, including written language, size of bricks for building, axel lengths for carts, and administrative districts, were standardized, was followed by nearly 400 years of relatively weak leaders, fragmented power, and general stagnation in religion and the arts.

The short-lived Sui Dynasty (585 – 614 AD), successfully reunited all of China under one rule and is generally credited with laying the foundations for the much longer Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) that followed. Major accomplishments initiated by Emperor Wen of Sui included standardization of the legal system; all civil service advancements were achieved through rigid imperial examinations; the entire government administration was structured into 3 Departments and 6 Ministries (that were employed by all succeeding Chinese dynasties); and local governance was radically reformed to eliminate existing policies that allowed powerful local families to control local municipalities. The Grand Canal was completed, spanning more than 1100 miles of manmade river ways linking the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers.

Major inventions included paper and wood block printing (which was used for more than 600 years until the printing press was invented in Europe), use of gunpowder, and discovering tea.

And art flourished in all forms, including poetry, writing, painting, sculpture, music, and dance.

Unfortunately, the Sui Dynasty tried to extend China’s influence by creating vassal states of surrounding countries, including Korea during the Goguryeo Dynasty. When Korea refused subservience, the Chinese tried to invade but were soundly defeated in 614, leading to the fall of the Sui Dynasty and the establishment of the Tang Dynasty.

The advancements of the Sui Dynasty were embraced by the Tang Dynasty, which was generally regarded as one of the richest periods and highest points in Chinese civilization, particularly in the arts.

Easily the most recognizable Tang art form was sculpture, in particular, burial pieces to help the deceased into the next world. Servants, musicians, court ladies, guardians, camels, and pets were molded from clay, sometimes glazed with multiple colors, called Sancai, and widely placed in tombs to be discovered centuries later. But the most iconic of all Tang sculptures are horses.

This glorious caparisoned horse, molded from orange-beige clay has been richly painted with pigments of red, brown, black, and white. Its right front leg is raised and bent, as if prancing, while the two rear legs lean back to bear its weight, and join the left front leg on a plinth to support the piece. Each hoof is painted white and boldly clash against the dark brown legs.  With nostrils flaring above an open mouth, the neck is turned sharply to the left and bulging eyes complete the dynamic head. A long combed mane falls over its left side, while a saddle rests on horse rug, painted in floral decorations,  covers its back. The tail is docked and combed and elaborate trappings supporting hanging ornaments showcase this glorious horse that is probably on parade.

Provenance – Virginia Museum of Art

15 x 14.75 inches

38.1 x 37.46 cm

Price upon request

Bronze Drum, Heger IV Type, Southern China, Laos, or Vietnam, 16th Century


Although bronze drums, commonly called rain drums or frog drums, have been produced in SE Asia for at least 2700 years, they are fiercely disputed as to their cultural origin. Most Vietnamese scholars believe they were first produced during the Dong Son culture along the Red River in Northern Vietnam (700 BC – 300 AD), while Chinese scholars argue they were first produced in Southern China in what is now Yunnan Province. Whichever is correct, none dispute they represent the highest archaeological findings in SE Asian metalwork.

As their use spread throughout other areas of SE Asia, stylistic changes developed which were categorized in 1902 by Austrian archaeologist Franz Heger, who identified 4 major groups which are now referred to as Heger I, Heger II, Heger III, and Heger IV.

Cast in three pieces, this Heger IV type bronze drum, from the Doris Duke Collection, is probably from Southern China and is very similar to a drum dated to the late 16th century, however the actual age is very difficult to determine.

The tympanum is decorated in the center with a 12-ray sun motif, separated with peacock symbols and surrounded by bands of waves and birds. Four writhing dragons and a pair of Chinese “Shou” (longevity) characters along with calligraphy declaring “10,000 generations with treasures, everlasting family wealth” highlight the next band. Numerous bands representing crops and wind complete the imagery of the top.  The  four dragons in the next band resemble the style and  head of a dragon at the base of the stone Buddha in the Ma So temple in Hai Duong which is dated to 1573.  The same stylistic convention is visible on a stone plate in Yen Dong temple in Quang Ninh, dated to 1590, which strongly suggest this drum was made in the late 16th century

On the sides, two sets of lug handles rest on the widest part of the shoulder and numerous bands of stylized symbols circle the body of the drum, which shows two seams where the body has been joined. There is a small repair on the edge of the tympanum, which, according to some studies, indicates a small piece of the drum was broken off to either be buried with an important leader or used within the casting of another drum, but is otherwise in excellent condition and is mounted on a wooden base.

19 x 10.5 inches, excluding the base

 48.26 x 26.67 cm


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