A ‘Huanghuali’ Corner-Leg Table Sold for £3m, 50 Times Its Estimate

A ‘Huanghuali’ corner-leg table from the 17th/18th century dominated Sotheby’s Important Chinese Art Sale in London after it was sold for £3m, more than 50 times its estimate of £60,000. It contributed one-third of the sale total of £9m and outshone other high-valued lots by becoming the most expensive lot at the sale.

Supported by four elegant square legs culminating at horse-hoof feet, the minimalist form of this table captured a sense of refined grandeur. Long tables such as the present are known as tiaozhuo and would have been used in the scholar’s studio as its length and absence of stretchers would have made it suitable for sitting at for the creation and admiration of scroll paintings, while holding books, brush holders and other scholar’s objects.

Despite carrying low estimate, it appealed to a number of bidders who offered bid increments without any hesitation. The price crossed the £1m mark in just a while but five bidders were still staying in the contest. The bidding battle continued as the price rose up to £1.5m, leaving only two bidders in the battlefield. After a prolonged bidding that lasted more than 10 minutes, the corner-leg table was hammered down at £2.55m and sold for £3.07m after premium to a telephone bidder. The final price fetched is more than 51 times its presale estimate, achieving one-third of the sale total.

A Huanghuali Corner-leg Table, Tiaozhuo, Qing Dynasty, 18th Century|Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Final price sold: £137,500|8 November 2017, Sotheby’s

A Huanghuali Corner-Leg Table, Tiaozhuo, Late Ming Dynasty|Estimate: £60,000-80,000. Final price sold: £461,000|11 November 2015, Sotheby’s

Two similar huanghuali corner-leg table were sold for prices far beyond estimates when they were offered at Sotheby’s in 2017 and 2015. Huanghuali, means “yellow flowering pear” wood in Chinese, is also known as fragrant rosewood. Furniture from the late Ming and early Qing dynasties made of this top-quality wood is highly sought after at auctions and thus often sold for prices higher than expected.

The second top lot of the sale was a white-glazed double-gourd vase, Qianlong seal mark and period, estimated at £200,000-400,000. It is elegantly potted of double-gourd form with a globular lower bulb rising to a waisted neck and a smaller upper bulb with an incurved rim, the mouth flanked by a pair of arched ruyi-shaped handles attached to the shoulders on the lower bulb.

Plain white vases of this type are extremely rare. During the Qing dynasty, three types of white wares are recorded to have been produced: Ding-type wares, which were fired at a higher temperature than the original; soft-paste type wares which were characterised by a yellowish-ivory tinge; and the traditional high-fired wares with a transparent glaze, first created during the Yongle reign of the Ming dynasty, which formed the majority of white wares including the present.

The auctioneer started the bidding at £150,000 and put the hammer down at £620,000 after several bid increments. The vase was sold for £754,000 after premium, more than three times its estimate.

The cover lot of the sale, a rare Qianlong jade washer, was estimated at £600,000-800,000. This monumental spinach-green jade washer measures 50 cm in width at its widest point and 12.8 cm in height. Its mouth is 34.8 cm in diameter, and its base is 25.2 cm in diameter. .

Many of the most impressive jade vessel forms devised in the Qianlong period follow archaic bronzes and the present washer is no exception. The shape represents a free interpretation of an archaic bronze basin known as pan. Archaic bronze pan were water basin used for ritual ablutions.

Robert Chang is a notable collector of Asian Art


The jade vessel was hammered down for at its low estimate 600,000 and sold for £730,000 after premium to Robert Chang, an avid collector of Asian Art.


Top five lots

A Fine 'huanghuali' and Nanmu Corner-leg Table
17th/18th Century

Lot no.: 125
Size: 82 x 204 x 65.5cm
Provenance: Purchased from Albert Chan, Chan Shing Kee, 1982.
Estimate: £60,000 - 80,000
Hammer price: £2,550,000
Price realised: £3,070,000

A Rare White-glazed Double-gourd Vase
Qianlong Seal Mark and Period

Lot no.: 73
Height: 23cm
Provenance: Collection of Gustav Detring (1842-1913) and thence by descent.
Estimate: £200,000 - 400,000
Hammer price: £620,000
Price realised: £754,000

An Imperial Monumental Khotan Green Jade Washer
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no.: 18
width:50 cm (at its widest point); mouth: 34.8 cm in diameter; base: 25.2 cm in diameter; height: 12.8 cm
Collection of Robert Napier, First Baron Napier of Magdala (1810-1890).
Estimate: £600,000 - 800,000
Hammer price: £600,000
Price realised: £730,000

An Imperial Spinach-green Jade ‘Wulao Tu’ Brushpot
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no.: 19
Size: height:16.5cm; mouth: 17cm; base: 17cm
Provenance: Collection of Robert Napier, First Baron Napier of Magdala (1810-1890).
Estimate: £300,000 - 500,000
Hammer price: £580,000
Price realised: £706,000

An Extremely Rare Blue and White Double-gourd 'dragon' Vase
Jiaqing Seal Mark and Period

Lot no.: 70
Height: 30.3cm
Collection of Gustav Detring (1842-1913) and thence by descent.
Estimate: £200,000 - 300,000
Hammer price: £480,000
Price realised: £586,000

Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s London
Sale: Important Chinese Art
Date: 7 November 2018
Lots offered: 146
Sold: 86
Unsold: 60
Sold by lot: 59%
Sale total: £9,082,500