The Met Is Selling a Trove of Chinese Ceramics and Jades at Bonhams

Much of the collection going on the block was bequeathed to the museum by prominent donors like Samuel Putnam Avery, one of the Met's founders.

Group of white and blue porcelain objects.
The collection will be sold during Asia Week New York. Courtesy Bonhams

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is deaccessioning works from its 35,000-piece collection of Asian art and sending them to Bonhams, which will auction off 174 of the museum’s Chinese ceramics and jades during its Asia Week New York auctions on March 18.

“It is an incredible privilege to be entrusted with works of such impeccable provenance and present them to a wider audience for the first time in over a century,” said Dessa Goddard, Bonhams’ vice president and U.S. head of Asian art, in a statement. As is typically the case with deaccessions, proceeds from the sale be used to fund the institution’s future acquisitions.

Passion and Philanthropy: Chinese Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art will offer up objects bequeathed to the museum by Gilded Age figures like business magnate John D. Rockefeller and philanthropist William Rhinelander Stewart.

Leading the sale is a lime-green enameled vase with dragon handles from the Qianlong-Jiaqing period (1736-1820) that is expected to sell for between $80,000 and $120,000. Differentiated by its large size and finely molded handles, the vase was previously owned by Samuel Putnam Avery, one of the Met’s founders and a longtime trustee of the museum.

A collector of art, rare books and prints, Avery gave more than 1,300 Chinese and Japanese porcelains to the museum between 1879 and 1882. More than eighty of these objects, including a brushpot and dish from the Kangxi period (1662-1722), will be included in the Bonhams sale.

Green vase with red handles
The lots include a vase once owned by Samuel Putnam Avery. Courtesy Bonhams

The lots include gifts from prominent Asian art collectors

The auction will also offer up items from the collection of Samuel T. Peters, a coal merchant and former Met trustee who gave more than 350 jade carvings to the museum between 1911 and 1916. A string of jade beads dating to the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911), for example, has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.

Meanwhile, a baluster vase and cover acquired by the Met in 1920 from the estate of Jacob S. Roger, a locomotive magnate, is expected to fetch between $20,000 and $25,000. A jade “dragon” boulder from the collection of philanthropists Florence and Herbert Irving has an estimate of between $8,000 and $12,000.

This won’t be the first time the Met has deaccessioned work gifted by the Irvings, who were longtime patrons of the museum and in 2004 saw the second floor of its Asian wing renamed after them. Florence and Herbert, who died in 2018 and 2016 respectively, gifted the museum 1,275 works of Chinese art from their collection, and in 2019, the Met sold off more than 300 pieces from that gift in a Sotheby’s auction.

The Met Is Selling a Trove of Chinese Ceramics and Jades at Bonhams