Qianlong Tang-Style Bronze Mirror Sold for 18 Times Its Estimate at Sotheby's Paris

Sotheby’s Paris Spring Sales were off to a great start with the Yangcai ‘Crane and Deer’ Ruyi Vase selling for €16.18m. Following this sale was the Arts d'Asie sale featuring a Qianlong period Tang-style bronze mirror which surprised everyone with its popularity at the sale. It was hammered down for €125,000, 18 times its estimate.

A Tang-style bronze mirror, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period

A bronze mirror from the Tang dynasty|Hunan Museum 

A bronze mirror from the Han dynasty|Xinzheng Museum

This type of bronze mirror was popular in the Sui and Tang dynasties. Usually, these mirrors are decorated with flowers and birds, with phoenix, with fortunate animals, with dragons and with human figures. This style can be traced back to the Han dynasty.

The back of the Tang-style bronze mirror, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period

The bronze mirror presented here appears to have been part of a larger group of objects all fitted into different trays of a tiered carved three-colour lacquer box that was especially made and fitted to accommodate the shape and size of the mirrors. The side with the yellow silk background is embroidered with a five-claw dragon holding a burning pearl while the bronze side has butterflies, birds and other creatures flying in a circle. This mirror was sold for €156,000 (US$209,000) with premium, well above its estimate of €7,000 - 9,000.

On to the top three lots of the sale, ranking in first is a zitan 'dragon' cabinet from the Qianlong period. The 102 x 104 x 55cm cabinet was part of the French collector Serge Sandberg’s collection. It aroused intense bidding and the price rose from €100,000 to €320,000 after almost 30 bids, sold for €390,000 (US$522,300) with premium.

Constructed with thick panels made entirely from zitan wood, this large cabinet, has two front doors decorated with dragons amongst clouds and waves. Each door features two confronting dragons playfully flanking a ‘flaming pearl’, surrounded by clouds. The entire composition symbolises the emperor’s rule of the lands and oceans. This imagery was historically popular among, and exclusive to, members of the imperial family.

The next two tops lots were both estimated at €200,000 - 300,000 and sold at €237,000 (US$317,400) with premium.

This polychrome stucco figure of Guanyin is from the Ming dynasty (15th century) and has a height of 101cm. The figure depicts Guanyin sitting cross-legged with eyes half closed. Her left hand is delicately placed palm-up on the knee while her right hand is raised, showing the karana mudra.

Selling at the same price of the figure is a blue and white 'bajixiang' moonflask from the Qianlong period. The circular body of the flask rises from a splayed oval foot to a cylindrical neck flanked by a pair of S-scroll handles. This type of vessel is given the name ‘moon’ flask because the shape resembles the full moon.

The flask has a height of 49.7cm, which usually makes it hard to fire without leaning to one side. Its shape follows an early Ming type which in itself was inspired by middle-eastern metalware. The design of lotus petals radiating from a central rosette adorning either side of the flask is also inspired by more stylised geometric star-shaped medallions centred on a yin-yang symbol, with curved bands and pointed tips vaguely reminiscent of leaves and petals.

Featured Lots

A Rare and Superbly Carved Zitan 'Dragon' Cabinet, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no.: 144
Size: 102 x 104 x 55cm

  • Acquired before 1942 (according to the collector's correspondance).

  • Thence in the family by descent.

Estimate: €120,000 - 150,000
Price realised: €393,000

An Important Polychrome Stucco Figure of Guanyin, Ming Dynasty, 15th Century

Lot no.: 184
Height: 101cm
Provenance: Belgium private collection
Estimate: €200,000 - 300,000
Price realised: €237,000

A Large Blue and White 'Bajixiang' Moonflask, Qianlong Seal Mark and Period

Lot no.: 155
Height: 49.7cm
Estimate: €200,000 - 300,000
Price realised: €237,000

A Rare Tang-Style Bronze Mirror, Silk Pouch Within a Carved Three-Colour Lacquer Box, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no: 138
Diameter: 14.3cm (mirror);21.4cm (box)
Provenance: French private collection
Estimate: €7,000 - 9,000
Price realised: €156,250


Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s Paris
Sale: Arts d'Asie
Lots offered: 155
Sold: 117
Unsold: 38
Sold by lot: 75%
Sale total: €3,184,725