Rare Chinese vase sells for £1.5 million after being spotted in kitchen

The extremely rare 18th century vase was bought by a surgeon in England for a few hundred pounds in the 1980s

Ted Hennessey
Wednesday 18 May 2022 20:59
18th century Chinese vase (Dreweatts Auctioneers)
18th century Chinese vase (Dreweatts Auctioneers)

An extremely rare 18th century Chinese vase made for an emperor which was bought by a surgeon in England for a few hundred pounds in the 1980s has sold at auction for almost £1.5 million.

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

The vase passed from the original owner to his son, who put it in his kitchen where a visiting antiques specialist spotted it and realised its true value.

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

It was reportedly sold to an international buyer via telephone.

Mark Newstead, from the auction house, said: “We are delighted with this exceptional result. We saw widespread interest from China, Hong Kong, America and the UK which resulted in very competitive bidding.”

This vase was described as “a testament to the creativity” of craftsmen working during the Qianlong period who used “enamelling techniques” to cater to the emperor’s taste in exotic styles.

The 18th century Chinese vase made for an emperor (Dreweatts Auctioneers/PA)

It would require at least three firings in the kiln for the different colours, including at over 1200℃ for the cobalt blue.

The auction house said: “The rich cobalt blue is often referred to as ‘sacrificial blue’, deriving from the use of vessels in this colour glaze being used during sacrifices at the Imperial Altar of Heaven.

“It is extremely rare to see blue vases painted in both gilding and slightly raised silver, thought to be due to the medium being difficult to control.

“Thrillingly, no other porcelain decorated with the same subject in gold and silver appears to have ever been documented.”

It also bears the distinctive six-character mark of the Qianlong period between 1736 and 1795 on its base.

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