Estimated at €30,000, a Chinese ‘Tianqiuping’ Vase Sells for €7.3m

An iron-red and blue and white dragon vase, tianqiuping, with Qianlong seal mark was hammered down at €5.5m, more than 180 times its estimate of €30,000 at Nagel Auktionen. It sold for €7.3m (US$8.3m) with premium included.

The Qianlong vase, tianqiuping (means ‘Celestial Sphere vase’ in Chinese), with a height of 58.3cm, features gigantic iron-red dragons with three claws and five claws amidst blue and white floral pattern, decorated with wave motifs and ruyi around the mouth and the foot ring. The vase is incised with a six-character seal mark of ‘Daqing Qianlong Nianzhi’ (made in the Qianlong reign of Qing Dynasty) in blue and white. It comes from a private European collection and the present owner acquired the vase in the 1960s.

Blue and white tianqiuping imitating the Ming design were also produced during the Yongzheng (1723-1735) and Qianlong (1736-1795) reigns in the Qing dynasty. Yet, it is very rare to find Qing Imperial porcelain of blue and white with iron-red glaze. It is therefore extremely rare to see an iron-red and blue and white tianqiuping like the present one to come into the market. Here are some tianqiuping vases offered recently on the market.  

A lemon-yellow and underglaze-blue ‘dragon’ vase, tianqiuping|Sotheby’s Hong Kong

A lemon-yellow and underglaze-blue ‘dragon’ vase, tianqiuping, seal mark and period of Qianlong was offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong this spring. The 61cm-tall vase, also decorated with dragons amidst floral pattern, sold for HK$70.58m (US$9m) with premium included.

Copper-red and underglaze blue ‘dragon’ tianqiuping, seal mark and period of Qianlong|The Palace Museum

There are some examples of blue and white ‘dragon’ tianqiuping with copper-red glaze, but not with iron-red like the present one. One of them is a 47cm-tall copper-red and underglaze blue ‘dragon’, which is now in the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing. On the other hands, there are a number of examples of blue and white ‘dragon’ tianqiuping from Ming and Qing dynasties. Examples include a Qianlong blue and white nine ‘dragon’ tianqiuping with a height of 33 cm tall and a Yongle blue and white tianqiuping with a height of 42.2cm. Both are now housed in National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Blue and white ‘dragon’ tianqiuping. Yongle period |National Palace Museum

If we limit the choice to iron-red and blue and white tianqiuping, there is a similar example kept in the National Palace Museum. It features five iron-red dragons amidst blue and white meandering scrolls of stylised lotus. However, it’s difficult to make comparisons to the present one since no image of the vase is available online. There are very few comparable examples to the present vase offered at auction. The rarity of the vase is one of the reasons that have driven the hammer price to more than 180 times the estimate.

A Very Fine Iron-Red and Blue and White Dragon Vase ‘Tianqiuping’, Qianlong Seal Mark

Lot no.: 346
Height: 58.3cm
Property from an old European private collection
Estimate: €30,000 - 50,000
Hammer price: €5,500,000
Price realised: €7,300,000

Auction house: Nagel
Location: Salzburg, Austria