THE FEATURED VASE
Back in November 2010, a delicate, decorative Qing Dynasty vase found when a brother and sister in West London were clearing out the attic of their family home, went up for auction with a starting bid of $800,000. Expected to sell for a couple of million, thirty minutes of frantic bidding saw the price rise to a new record for a Chinese antiquity, a staggering $69.5m ($85.9m when the auction house cut was added in). Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there.
The pastel yellow and sky-blue coloured, 16″ tall, ovoid vase decorated with four enamelled cartouches showing fish and flowers, has extensive perforations on the outside showing through to an inner vase. Thought to have fired during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796), and at the imperial potteries in Jingdezhen just west of modern day Shanghai, the vase is believed to have been produced for one of Qianlong’s imperial palaces. It’s rarity and value were obvious.
What happened next was less so. The Chinese buyer refused to pay, reportedly because he didn’t want to pay a levy fee of £8.6m, ($12.8m) and after much travelling between countries, the sale fell through.
It’s not all bad news. In early 2013 it was reported that a sale had finally been agreed for between £20-25m ($30-37m), for something found in a attic and thought to be worth at most $3m, that’s still quite a result. It has continued to raise concerns about the reliability and professionalism of Chinese buyers and agents in the rapidly appreciating Chinese antiquities market.