The Max Lowenson Collection of Animals in Chinese Art

by John Nicholsons Fine Art Auctioneer & Valuer
November 11, 2016 2:00 PM GMT Live auction
Haslemere, SRY, UK | Auction Details

38 Lots

1: 17th Century Jade Rhinoceros
Est: £2,000 - £3,000
3: Han Dynasty Agate Bear
Est: £2,000 - £3,000
4: Pair of Neolithic Bi Discs
Est: £2,000 - £3,000
5: Neolithic Jade Bi Disc
Est: £8,000 - £12,000
6: Ming Dynasty Jade Horse
Est: £10,000 - £15,000
7: 18th Century Jade Ram Group
Est: £20,000 - £30,000
9: Tang Dynasty Silver Cup
Est: £5,000 - £8,000
12: Bronze Han Dynasty Leopard
Est: £2,000 - £3,000
19: Tang Dynasty Phoenix Bowl
Est: £6,000 - £8,000
33: Tang Dynasty Dragon Bowl
Est: £6,000 - £8,000
36: Han Dynasty Bronze Feline
Est: £10,000 - £15,000


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Max Lowenson (1879–1945) was born in Riga, Latvia, and as a young man came to Cardiff, Wales, to marry his wife. He was  soon  followed  by  his two brothers who married her sisters. He was the director of the Produce Trading Company and travelled extensively in Europe and the Far East. He was a skilled linguist,being fluent in Russian,English, French and Italian. He was a cultured man with a wide range of interests in literature, theatre, art, as well as Elizabethan and Chinese history. Lowenson became an avid collector of Chinese works of art, with a primary focus on early works from the Han and Tang Dynasties. He collected Chinese terracotta, and bronzes from the Han, Warring States, Ordos, Dian, Luristan and Tang periods, as well as Jades from Neolithic to 18th century,  all collected with     a connoisseur’s  eye.  He  bought  from  countries he visited as well as from country house sales during the first half of the 20th century. The pieces currently being auctioned represent a cross section characterise his wide ranging taste in Chinese art.


Now a selection from his collection will appear in a special auction on November 11, to coincide with the Asian Art in London festival of auctions, gallery shows, talks and museum exhibitions.


A selection of bronzes and jades have been chosen to illustrate the different ways in which animals have been depicted in Chinese art, over time. They reveal the astonishing skill with which artists throughout the ages,have depicted these beautiful creatures.



The varied animals depicted in Chinese art  can  be  divided into three major categories--domestic animals, wild animals and mythical beasts. All of these are represented in the objects selected for this auction. They include water buffalo, rabbit, ducks, deer, camels, goats, pigs, rams, horses, lions, bears, tigers, rhinoceros, monkey,  snakes,  birds,  phoenix,  and mythical beasts such as dragons and phoenix. They also show people interacting with animals who are being ridden,  or hunted. The taotie are also represented in this selection of bronzes and Jade.


To discover what animals represent to people within any culture,it is necessary to understand what they have symbolized over time. Whether imaginary or real, animals are a recurring decorative and symbolic element of ancient Chinese art. They are not just part of the natural world. They represent beliefs, hopes and fears for present and future times. Animals within the Zodiac indicate aspects of personality and destiny. Many real or mythical animals represent human attributes such as strength, courage, happiness, power, love, benevolence, wisdom, longevity, and fidelity.Animals also represent seasons, colours, elements and directions. Knowledge of this symbolism enriches our understanding of the relevance animals have had within Chinese culture over thousands ofyears.


The objects come from many different periods including Neolithic, Warring States, Han, Tang, Song, Ming, and the 17th and 18th centuries. The materials found in these items include jade, bronze, copper, agate, turquoise, jet, silver, gold, iron  and lead.


Some of the animals like the phoenix are highly stylised. Others such as the felines are astonishingly realistic and demonstrate a total understanding of anatomy and movement. The silverHan bear and Warring States waterbuffalo, show all the features of the animal, within a small circular area. In doing so, the artists have demonstrated great skill and creativity. The Han parcel gilt bronze tiger is stylistic but is extraordinarily expressive. The many mythical beasts depicted show a richness of imagination rarely equalled in other cultures.


bi discs have been included because in Chinese art they represent heaven and earth wherein all creatures real or mythical were believed to exist.  The Liangzhu bi disc depicts   a mask and a bird, whose symbolism is now lost in the mists  of time.

Buyer's Premium
From: To: Increment:
£0 £99 £5
£100 £199 £10
£200 £499 £20
£500 £999 £50
£1,000 £1,999 £100
£2,000 £4,999 £200
£5,000 £9,999 £500
£10,000 £49,999 £1,000
£50,000 £99,999 £5,000
£100,000+ £10,000

Shipping Terms: Auction House will help arrange shipment, at buyer's expense

Addition Credit Card Information: Debit or Credit Cards, please note credit cards attract a surcharge of 2%. All Card payments are limited for non-attendance payment to £1000 (this is per sale and is not negotiable). Division of purchased lots for the purpose of reducing to below £1000 will not be accepted. More than one card may not be used for payment. Cards presented in person using the 'Chip & PIN' system will be accepted for any value subject to all the card issuer criteria being met.

Viewing Notes: Special London view Monday 7th November 10am - 8pm Tuesday 8th November 10am - 8pm Champagne reception both days 6pm - 8pm by kind permisson of David Brower Antiques 113 Kensington Church Street London W8 7LN View at Fernhurst Wednesday 9th November 10am - 5pm Thursday 10th November 10am - 5pm Friday 11th November, the morning of the sale from 9am or by special appointment