Sotheby’s Spring Sales Wrapped Up by Important Chinese Art Sale, Led by Qianlong Lemon-Yellow ‘Dragon’ Vase

Important Chinese Art sale capped off Sotheby’s Hong Kong spring sales with Qianlong Chinese art dominating the top three spots.

The top lot was a Lemon-yellow and Underglaze-Blue ‘Dragon’ Vase, Seal Mark and Period of Qianlong, estimated at HK$30m-40m. The body superbly painted in rich cobalt-blue tones simulating the 'heaped and piled' effect, depicting a pair of mighty ferocious dragons. The dominant dragon depicted three-clawed and its subordinate five-clawed. This vase ranks among the largest tianqiuping created during the Qing period, and no other closely related example appears to be published. Only one other vase identical in size, streamlined shape and design is known, but without the yellow enamel ground.

Carrie Li, Senior Specialist of Chinese Works of Art

The bidding started at HK$20m and saw keen interest from bidders in the room. The price further went up and the bidding battle was joined by two new telephone bidders, one represented by Carrie Li, Senior Specialist of Chinese Works of Art, and Nicolas Chow, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia. The Qianlong vase was hammered down at HK$61m, sold to Chow’s client for HK$70.58m with premium included.

Nicolas Chow, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia

A Qianlong Ruby-Ground Yangcai Vase, the cover lot of the sale, estimated at HK$40m-60m. The present vase with its radiant colours and delicate sgraffiato work archetypically embodies opulence of their decoration as well as the rich spectrum of their enamels. Porcelains decorated in this way are in China identified as yangcai, ‘foreign colours’. On the present vase, the style, although clearly inspired by Western ornament, has already taken on a Chinese flair, as highly stylised, symmetrically arranged European arabesques, rendered in pastel tones with distinct shading, are combined with purely Chinese elements such as lotus, key-fret, ruyi and petal panel motifs.

The vase opened with a bid of HK$25m and hammered down at HK$43m. It sold to a bidder in the room for HK$50.26m with premium.

The third highlight of the sale was a Qianlong Khotan-green Jade Archaistic Vase, the first antiques piece that bought by Giuseppe Eskenazi, a prominent art dealer in Chinese art.

The present vase is an archaistic jade vase treasured by the Qianlong Emperor, one of the few historical emperors obsessed with jades. Qianlong-era jades can be divided into jades in period styles (shizuo yu) and archaistic jades (fanggu yu). The present pair of Khotan-green jade vase shows the Qianlong Emperor's appreciation of and taste for archaistic jades. The prototype of the jade vase was in the form of a Han-dynasty bronze vase with aquatic creatures.

The Value’s interview with Giuseppe Eskenazi, the Godfather of Chinese Antiques

During an interview with The Value, Eskenazi said the piece was bought for £350 in London in 1960 and later sold to Spink, an auction and collectibles company founded in London since 1666. It went up for auction this time at Sotheby’s Hong Long, carrying an estimate HK$18m-24m. The archaistic jade vase was hammered down for HK$18m and sold for HK$21.72m with premium.

Top three lots



A Fine and Magnificent Lemon-yellow and Underglaze-blue ‘Dragon’ Vase, Tianqiuping
Seal Mark and Period of Qianlong

Lot no.3620
Height: 60.8cm

  • A Swiss collection since the 1970s, thence by descent.

Estimate: HK$30,000,000-40,000,000
Hammer price: HK$61,000,000
Price realized: HK$70,586,500

An Exceptionally Fine and Rare Ruby-Ground Yangcai Vase
Seal Mark and Period of Qianlong

Lot no.: 3622
Height: 21.7cm

  • Christie’s New York, 2nd December 1993, lot 345.
  • Collection of Mr and Mrs Ivan B. Hart, New York.
  • The Shimentang collection, London.
  • Eskenazi, London.

Estimate: HK$40,000,000 - 60,000,000
Hammer price: HK$43,000,000
Price realized: HK$50,264,500


An Imperial, Highly Important and Magnificent Khotan-Green Jade Archaistic Vase
Fanggu Mark and Period of Qianlong

Lot no.: 3638
Size: 41.5 cm

  • Eskenazi Ltd, London and Milan, c.1960-1961.
  • Spink & Son Ltd, London.
  • Sotheby’s London, 21st November 1961, lot 164 (frontpiece illustration), where It's noted it was acquired by Marshall.
  • Christie’s London, 16th December 1987, lot 472.
  • Spink & Son Ltd, London, 1989.
  • Collection of Somerset de Chair (1911-1995).
  • Bonhams Hong Kong, 27th November 2014, lot 13.

Estimate: HK$18,000,000 - 24,000,000
Hammer price: HK$18,000,000
Price realized: HK$21,720,000


Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Important Chinese Art
Sale date: 2018/4/3
Lots offered: 98
Sold: 61
Unsold: 37
Sold by lot: 62%
Sale total: HK$252,226,000