Ming Dynasty Butter Lamp Sold for £1.32m at Bonhams London Sale

After Christie’s and Sotheby’s spectacular sales in London Sale Week, Bonhams brought us its Fine Chinese Art sale which delivered satisfactory results. The top lot – an Imperial gilt-bronze butter lamp, was successfully sold, becoming the star of the ‘show’. It was followed by a pair of fahua Buddhist lions on stands and an archaic bronze food vessel, which also have high pre-sale estimates.

The winner – an Imperial rare cast gilt-bronze ritual butter lamp from early Ming Dynasty (circa first half 15th century), has an estimate of  £1.2m. It was hammered down at £1.1m and sold for £1.32m.

This lamp is from the Jingtai period. Artifacts from this time are extremely rare since the Jingtai period only lasted 7 years. This very butter lamp contains the essence of why the Ming Dynasty fell. We will get into this another time.  

Ranking in second place is a pair of monumental fahua Buddhist lions on stands. This pair is from the late Ming Dynasty (16th/17th century) and has an estimate of £150,000 - 250,000. It came from the collection of the grandson of the Daoguang Emperor and has the label of C.T.Loo & Co. Hammered down at £420,000, it was sold for £510,000.

This outstanding pair of Buddhist lions belongs to a specially commissioned statuary group that served as guardians, and was most likely specially commissioned for an important temple.

A very rare archaic bronze ritual food vessel (Fangding), was hammered down at £300,000 (£360,000 with premium). It comes from the late Shang/early Western Zhou Dynasty and is inscribed with Zhu Fu Ding, later becoming part of the Mengdiexuan Collection. Its estimate is £120,000 - 150,000 and made number three in the sale.

Before the Shang Dynasty, Fangdings were made of ceramics. The first bronze Fangding appeared in early Shang. In the Yin Xu period of the Shang Dynasty, new shapes of dings were developed. The legs were no longer hollow and dings became more sturdy in general.


Top Three Lots

A monumental Imperial exceptionally rare cast gilt-bronze ritual butter lamp
Early Ming Dynasty, circa first half 15th century, cast Jingtai six-character mark

Lot no.: 150
Size: 102.6 x 102.1 x 88.8cm
Weight: 335kg

  • Spink & Son, Ltd., London

  • An English private collection, London

  • Christie's London, 15 December 1983, lot 374

  • Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes, Mike Winter – Rousset, Paris, 1984 - 1990

  • A European private collection, circa 1990 – 2014

  • The Bodhimanda Foundation

Estimate on Request (The Value learnt the estimate is £1,200,000)
Hammer price: £1,100,000
Price realised: £1,328,750

A very rare pair of monumental fahua Buddhist lions on stands

Lot no: 70
Height: 203.3cm

  • Collection of the grandson of the Daoguang Emperor, by repute C.T.Loo & Co. (labels)

  • Cornelius Ruxton Love Jr. (1904 - 1971) and Audrey B. Love (1903 - 2003), New York

  • Christie's New York, The C. Ruxton and Audrey B. Love Collection, 20 October 2004, lot 317

  • A distinguished Western private collection

Estimate: £150,000 - 250,000
Hammer price: £420,000
Price realised: £512,750

A very rare archaic bronze ritual food vessel, Fangding
Late Shang/early Western Zhou Dynasty, inscribed Zhu Fu Ding

Lot no.: 36
Height: 26.2cm
Provenance: The Mengdiexuan Collection
Estimate: £120,000 - 150,000
Hammer price: £300,000
Price realised: £368,750

Auction Summary

Auction House: Bonhams London
Sale: Fine Chinese Art  
Sale Date: 2018/5/17
Lots offered: 315