A vase uncovered during a house clearance in Middlesex went under the hammer on November 11th for an astonishing £53.1 million. It was a far cry from the Victorian dining chairs and bric-a-brac seen in most provincial auction houses, easily outstripping the Cumbria gold helmet sold for £300,000 recently.
When the couple – a brother and sister who have decided to remain anonymous – first unearthed the vase, it was during a clearance of their late parents’ house. It was only at the last moment they decided to add it to a lot worth, on average £10 to £30 each.
Bainbridges was very glad they did. In common with provincial auctioneers from Plymouth to Preston, fake antique desks, worthless bric-a-brac and mass-produced Victorian dining chairs is the mainstay of their trade. But following a surprise £100,000 Ming Vase they auctioned 2 years ago, they kept a special eye out for Chinese artworks, and recognised the piece immediately as an 18th century Qianlong-dynasty porcelain vase, estimated to be worth between £800,000 and £1.2 million. He was as stunned as the owners when, after 30 minutes of furious bidding, it went to an Oriental gentleman as the most expensive Chinese artwork ever sold at auction.
The vase would have resided in the Imperial Palace, probably disappearing abroad during the Opium Wars, as was the case with many treasures. Chinese collectors are now feverishly buying back China’s Imperial heritage – and will pay any price to secure it.
At present, Chinese collectors are mainly looking for artworks and smaller items, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for Imperial furniture such as antique desks. Preston dealers sometimes have Chinese antique desks for sale. Worth investing in, if only for the dragons!
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