Western-influenced Qianlong vase hammered down at €1.93m

All eyes were on Ader Nordmann's spring sales in Paris yesterday. The rare Qianlong Yangcai Yellow Vase was hammered down for €1.9 million after an half-hour bidding battle, far exceeding the estimated price of €600,000.

The 18th century porcelain, made for the Qianlong Emperor (1735-96), is among the finest ever produced in imperial kilns during the Qianlong reign, when technical prowess in porcelain was highly advanced. 

Yangcai, which can be translated as "foreign colours", refers to porcelains with enamels introduced from the West.

The auctioneer started the bidding at around €600,000. It didn’t take long for the lot to pass the million-dollar mark. But then the bidding slowed down and began shrinking in increments from €500,000, €100,000, €50,000 to €10,000.

After hovering between €1.93m and €1.95m, the lot was hammered down for €1.93m as shown on live stream, excluding buyer's premium and VAT.

However, the hammer price perhaps fell short of expectations as experts suggested the lot, in excellent condition, would have been expected to fetch between €4m and €5m in the pre-COVID market.

Decorated with intricate motifs and vibrant colours, the 26.3cm vessel features a narrow neck with gold-enamelled dragon handles attached on either side, which is a symbol of an Emperor. 

On the paunch, delicate lotus motifs are painted against a lavish backdrop filled with stylized floral patterns, which is a signature Qianlong decorative style of what’s called “flowers added on brocade”. 

Also unique to its ornaments are a handful of triangular motifs reminiscent of patchwork clothes, surrounded by a pink frieze in the shape of the "Lingzhi" mushroom, a type of fungus that symbolizes longevity and good health in Chinese culture. 

The gradient effect used on the frieze, flowers and leaves is also a technique widely used in Western paintings.

On the base, a six-character Qianlong seal mark can be found on a turquoise ground, meaning the item is commissioned for the Emperor and his imperial household.

According to the auction house, the lot was brought to Paris by the family of Sir G.G, Captain of the hundred second line Infantry Regiment in the 19th century. 

Height: 26.3cm
Provenance: Collected by Sir G.G, Captain of the hundred second line Infantry Regiment in the 19th century. The vase was passed down in this French family since.
Estimate: €600,000

Hammer price: €1,930,000

Auction house: Ader Nordmann Paris
Venue: 3 rue Favart 75002 Paris
Sale date: 16 June 2020