A Rare Chinese ‘Famille-Rose’ Vase Sold for RMB 11.5m Despite Flaw at Bottom

It has now come to the peak season for the auction houses in the mainland China. In general, top lots of the most auctions are dominated by Chinese paintings and calligraphy given their popularity in the Chinese market. However, Beijing Dongzheng Auction Co. took a different approach with a selection of ceramic works as the highlights of the sale.

The sale was led by a ‘famille-rose’ ‘nine dragon’ vase, tianqiuping from the Qianlong period. The robustly-potted globular body rising from a recessed base to a tall slightly waisted cylindrical neck, brightly enamelled and gilded around the body and neck with nine ferocious scaly five-clawed dragons writhing and grappling with each other amidst fire scrolls, all reserved on a turquoise tumultuous foaming wave ground.

Picture of its seal mark when the vase was sold previously at Sotheby’s Hong in 2010 (left)
Picture of its seal mark from the catalogue of the present sale (right)

It is a rare piece of work exemplifying the sophisticated craftsmanship during the Qianlong period. It could have fetched a much higher price if it was not ruined by a fatal flaw at the bottom – a hole in the centre of the six-character seal mark of the Qianlong period – probably drilled by its previous collector for turning the vase into a makeshift lamp.

The vase was originally estimated at RMB 20m-25m but it was likely lowered down after knowing the cold reception from potential buyers before the sale began. The bid started at RMB 2m and the vase was knocked down for RMB 10m and sold for RMB 11.5m with buyer’s premium. The hammer price seemed more reasonable than its pre-sale estimate as it better reflected the value of the vase.

The second top lot was a pair of yellow-ground ‘famille-rose’ jars with cover from the Jiaqing period. The pattern on the jars conveys an auspicious meaning of longevity and fruitfulness. The base was inscribed with six-character seal mark of the Jianqing period.

The jars have an illustrious provenance as they belonged to the Alfred Morrison collection, fonthill house. Alfred Morrison, an English collector known for his interest in Chinese works of art, acquired many fine pieces from Yuanming Yuan ( a complex of palaces and gardens during the Qing dynasty). Therefore, ‘fonthill house’ is a almost like a synonym for top quality ceramic works.

Photos of Fonthill in the past

The pair of jars was offered an opening bid of RMB 6m and hammered down for RMB 9.3m. It was sold for RMB 10.69m

A blue and white barbed rim ‘floral scroll’ dish from the Yongle period was another highlight of the sale. The present dish is an example of the technical developments achieved by the early Ming dynasty. Yongle porcelains are characterised by their particularly deep blue cobalt, which fired to a dark deep-blue in some parts and pale blue in others. This silvery-black and crystal-like separation of colours is known as the ‘heaped and piled’ effect, and the intensity of tones was highlighted by the finely potted white body of the porcelain clay.

The dish was hammered down for RMB 5.4m, surpassing its estimate of RMB 2m-3m. It was sold for RMB 6.21m with buyer’s premium.


Top three lots

Famille-Rose Nine Dragon Vase, Tianqiuping
Seal Mark and Period of Qianlong

Lot no.: 1504
Height: 50.8cm

  • Sothebys Hong Kong, 8th October 2010, lot 2700 (HK$6,260,000)

Estimate: RMB 20,000,000 - 25,000,000
Hammer price: RMB 10,000,000
Price realized: RMB 11,500,000

A Pair of Yellow-Ground ‘Famille-Rose’ Jars with Cover
Qing dynasty, Jiaqing Period

Lot no.: 1501
Height: 31cm

  • Morrison family, Fonthill House
  • Christie’s London,9th November 2004, The Alfred Morrison Collection, lot 44

Estimate: RMB 8,000,000 - 10,000,000
Hammer price: RMB 9,300,000
Price realized: RMB 10,695,000

Blue and White Barbed Rim ‘Floral Scroll’ Dish
Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period.

Lot no.: 1506
Diameter: 38cm
Estimate: RMB 2,000,000 - 3,000,000
Hammer price: RMB 5,400,000
Price realized: RMB 6,210,000


Auction details

Auction house: Beijing Dongzheng Auction Co.
Venue: Kerry Hotel Beijing

Auction date: 2017/12/9