Full of Surprises at Christie’s London Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

Following the East Asian Collection sale, Christie’s London began its Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. A greenish-white jade 'Luohan and Grotto' group from the Qianlong period, the top lot of the sale, took everyone by surprise for being hammered down for £600,000, 10 times its estimate.

Estimated at £60,000 - 80,000, the greenish-white jade ‘Luohan and Grotto’ group was believed to be from sets of sixteen or eighteen luohans made during the Qianlong period. Luohans, also known as arhats, are the preservers of the teaching of Buddhism. They are charged to protect the Buddhist faith and to wait on earth for the coming of Maitreya, a future Buddha of the world in Buddhist eschatology.

The back of the jade

It was perhaps the attractive estimate that elicited the frenzy of interest from bidders, fuelling the bidding up to £400,000 in the blink of an eye. The jade was finally hammered down at £600,000, 10 times its estimate, and sold for £730,000 with buyer’s premium.

The astonishment continued when a pair of huanghuali yokeback armchair (“Sichutou Guanmao Yi” in Chinese) from the 19th century was auctioned in the salesroom. It was from the Zhidao Zhai collection. Estimated at £15,000 - 20,000, the pair of armchair was hammered down for £420,000, 28 times its estimate. It was sold for £512,750 with premium included, becoming the second top lot of the sale.

Another noteworthy lot was a gold and silver-inlaid bronze archaistic bird-form ritual vessel, zun, from Ming dynasty (17th century). The vessel reputedly belonged to Bluett & Sons, a major dealer in Chinese works of art in London. Estimated at £100,000 - 150,000, the vessel is cast as a standing mythical bird with head facing forward, carrying a twin-handled vase decorated with monster masks between a pair of upswept wings.

Opening at £70,000, the ritual vessel reached £200,000 after receiving 16 bids. Yet, the bidding didn’t stop until the auctioneer put the hammer down at £310,0000 and sold the vessel for £380,750 to the client represented by Felix Pei, Specialist of Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art.

Realizing the fourth highest price was the leading lot, a bronze ritual wine vessel, zun, from the late Shang to early Western Zhou Dynasty (12th-10th Century BC). Carrying the highest pre-sale estimate of £200,000 - 400,000, the vessel has an inscription consisting of four characters inside of its foot. The reception from bidders was not as enthusiastic as expected. The vessel was hammered down for £220,000, slightly higher than its low estimate. It was sold for £272,750 with buyer’s premium.

Sharing the fourth place was the cover lot of the sale, a gilt-bronze figure of Guanyin from Ming dynasty (16th - 17th century), with an estimate of £80,000 - 120,000. Represented in the figure is one of the most popular and venerated bodhisattvas in Mahayanist Buddhism – Avalokiteśvara, known in China as Guanyin. In China, Guanyin appears in both male and female form, but in the Ming period is frequently androgynous. The figure was also hammered down for £220,000 and sold for £272,750 with buyer’s premium.  

Top five lots

A Greenish-white Jade 'Luohan and Grotto' Group, Qianlong Period (1736-1795)

Lot no.: 94
Height: 22cm

  • Acquired in Asia in the early 20th century.

Estimate: £60,000 - 80,000
Hammer price: £600,000
Price realised: £728,750

A Pair of Huanghuali Yokeback Armchair, Sichutou Guanmaoyi, 19th Century

Lot no.: 291
Size: 111 x 62.5 x 48cm

  • Property From the Zhidao Zhai Collection

Estimate: £15,000 - 20,000
Hammer price: £420,000
Price realised: £512,750

A Rare Gold and Silver-Inlaid Bronze Archaistic Bird-form Ritual Vessel, Zun
Ming Dynasty, 17th Century

Lot no.: 77
Height: 37cm

  • By repute, with Bluett & Sons, London, then Michael Goedhuis, London.

Estimate: £100,000 - 150,000
Hammer price: £310,000
Price realised: £380,750

A Magnificent and Important Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel, Zun
Late Shang- Early Western Zhou Dynasty (12th-10th Century BC)

Lot no.: 40
Height: 31.2cm

  • S. Kawai Collection, Kyoto.
  • Property of the Late Dr. A. F. Philips (1874-1951).
  • Sotheby's, London, 30 March 1978, lot 21.
  • From an important private European collection.

Estimate: £200,000 - 400,000
Hammer price: £220,000
Price realised: £272,750

A Large Finely Cast Gilt-bronze Figure of Guanyin, and a Bronze Stand
Ming Dynasty, 16th-17th Century

Lot no: 166
Height: 79cm

  • Acquired prior to 1970.

Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000
Hammer price: £220,000
Price realised: £272,750

Auction summary

Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
Lots offered: 281
Sale total: £5,675,750