A bamboo pot donated to a hospice shop in Bristol might have been badly cracked and damaged – but it netted the charity £350,000 when it was sold at auction.
In areas like the Ribble Valley, antique cabinets often become cluttered with heirlooms and keepsakes, which end up being donated to charity when it’s time for a clearout. However, it might be worth rechecking that old vase in your antique cabinet, after a carrier bag of junk left at a St Peter’s Hospice shop turned out to be concealing a rare antique bamboo pot by a Chinese master craftsman.
An eagle-eyed member of staff showed the container to a local antique dealer, who passed it on to a Chinese art specialist. He identified it as an antique Chinese bamboo brush pot, made between 1662 and 1722 by the famous Chinese artist Gu Jue. Despite extensive cracking and other damage, including an inexpert attempt at repair using modern glue, the piece was sold to a Hong Kong buyer for £360,000 – equivalent to around three year’s profits at the shop where it was found. The intricately carved object, which depicted a scene from the life of the philosopher Laozi, would have been used by scholars to hold their brushes.
The new owner is expected to have the piece expertly restored. Part of the damage was caused by the wood drying out – a problem familiar to anyone who has ever had a hot radiator behind an antique oak pedestal desk . In Preston, antique dealers regularly call in the restorers to beautify their purchases before selling them to the public, another reason why dealers are better than auction rooms when buying fine furniture.
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