Coming to the last day of its spring sales in Hong Kong, Christie’s made a strong opening with a single-lot sale offering a doucai and famille rose ‘anbaxian’ vase from the Qianlong period (1736-1795). It fetched HK$130m with buyer’s premium and sold to Robert Chang, a legendary collector.
The present vase, tianqiuping (means ‘Celestial Sphere vase’ in Chinese), was commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor. The piece is also referred to as the Anbaxian vase, which literally translates as ‘‘eight secret emblems”. The attributes associated with the Daoist immortals.
Traditionally Chinese decorative arts would represent Buddhist motifs, but this vase reveals the dual nature of religion during the Qing dynasty. Qianlong was a devout Buddhist but he was also a follower of Daoism, which is all to do with longevity and the wish to find the elixir of long life.
Regarding the provenance of this vase, it is thought that Taber bought the vase prior to 1925, when it is first recorded in his collection. It remained in his family until his daughter Francis Keally donated it to The Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa in 1960.
The auction house placed a lucky lot number 8888 (meaning wealth or fortune in Chinese) on this lot and offered it in a one-lot sale. The sale started at 10.30am in Hong Kong and was presided over by Hugh Edmeades.
The sale had mainly two bidders showing interest, one was a legendary collector Robert Chang, and the other one was the telephone bidder represented by Chi-Fan Tsang (the one in violet outfit in the above image), Christie's Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art.
Legendary collector Robert Chang
The bidding started at HK$45m and the price went up steadily as two bidders offering alternate bids. The price soon reached HK$100m, a bid made by Robert Chang. But the bidding didn’t stop there.
Both bidders became more prudent in offering bid incremnts after the price crossed the HK$100m threshold. Chi-fan Tsang offered HK$112m and waited for the next move from her rival. Robert Chang tried to lower the bid increment by asking for HK$112.5m as the next bid. The auctioneer accepted the bid anyway and joked, ‘it’s not easy to sell’.
The vase was finally hammered down for HK$114m, Chang’s wining bid. He flashed the red paddle with a number "8888" to confirm the purchase. It seemed like Chang was determined to get this lot no.8888, so instead of using “1” (the paddle number that Chang has been using), he requested a special paddle number to go with his desired vase.
The Qianlong doucai and famille rose vase was sold for HK$130m (premium included), exceeding its presale estimate of HK$70m-90m. It also became the second lot that passed the HK$100m price point at Christie’s Hong Kong auction this season, after Zao Wou-ki’s 14.12.59 was sold for HK$176m last week.
A Fine Magnificent and Extremely Rare Doucai and Famille Rose ‘Anbaxian’ Vase, Tianqiuping
Qianlong Six-character Seal Mark in Underglaze Blue and of the Period (1736-1795)
Lot no.: 8888
- George Hathaway Taber (1859-1940) Collection, prior to 1925, and thence by descent within the family
- Mrs. Francis Keally (nee Mildred Taber, 1891-1975) Collection
- Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, gift of Mrs. Francis Keally,
- accessioned in 1960
Estimate: HK$70,000,000 - 90,000,000
Hammer price: HK$114,000,000
Price realised: HK$130,600,000
Auction house: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: Celestial Immortals - The Taber Family Tianqiuping from Philbrook Museum of Art
Sale date: 2018/5/30
Lot offered: 1