Rare Chinese vase sells at Newbury auction for almost £1.5m | Ceramics


An extremely rare 18th-century Chinese vase bought by a surgeon in England for a few hundred pounds in the 1980s has sold at auction for almost £1.5m.

The 60cm (2 ft) blue-glazed, silver and gilt vase, decorated with cranes and bats, was created for the court of the Qianlong Emperor in the 1700s.

Blue and gold vase
The vase is about 60cm (2 ft) high. Photograph: Dreweatts Auctioneers/PA

Bought by the owner’s late father for its looks, the vase sat in the kitchen of the family’s Midlands home, where it was spotted in the 1990s by antiques expert Mark Newstead during a social visit.

Years later, Newstead identified the Chinese emperor Qianlong’s six-character seal mark on its base, and said the vase was likely displayed in the halls of the Qing palace in the mid-18th century.

Berkshire-based auctioneers Dreweatts had estimated its value at between £100,000-£150,000, but on Wednesday the piece fetched £1.2m, with a buyer’s premium bringing the total closer to £1.5m.

It was reportedly sold to an international buyer via telephone.

Emperor’s mark on base of vase
The emperor’s mark was on the base of the vase. Photograph: Dreweatts Auctioneers

Newstead, who is a specialist consultant in Asian ceramic art at Dreweatts, said: “I was at the house with my wife for lunch in the 1990s. I was surprised to see the vase in the kitchen and said, ‘I think that’s something rather good,’ but didn’t pick it up or inspect it, as that wouldn’t have been appropriate.

“The surgeon bought it just as a decorative thing. We do not have a receipt, but the daughter is reasonably certain he bought it sometime between 1988 and 1993. We are delighted with the result. It shows the demand for the finest porcelain produced in the world.”

The vase, which has a crack in its neck, was described as “a testament to the creativity” of craftspeople working during the Qianlong period, who used enamelling techniques to cater to the emperor’s taste in exotic styles.

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It would have required at least three firings in the kiln to achieve the different colours, including at over 1,200C for the cobalt blue.



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