Pair of Yongzheng Imperial Famille Rose Bowls Sold for US$1.04m at Bonhams New York

Bonhams kicked off New York auction week with a modest Chinese Works of Art sale that realised a 56% sell-through rate of all 255 lots offered. All high-valued lots were all sold, including the leading Yongzheng Imperial famille rose 'quails and chrysanthemums' bowls that sold for US$1.04m, far exceeding the estimate of US$300,000-500,000.The bowl is described by the auction house ‘a combination of falangcai and fencai’. So which category do the bowls fall into?

Falangcai (珐琅彩), which can be translated as ‘foreign colours’, refers to porcelains painted in the imperial workshops of the Forbidden City in Beijing with enamels partly introduced from the West. Fencai (粉彩), corresponding to the 'famille rose' palette, means ‘soft colours’. Technically speaking, the bowls are famille rose porcelain with falangcai enamels in the brown and ochre enamelling of the quail.

For more details about the relationship between falangcai and fencai, check out our article:
Falangcai? Fencai? Relationship Between the Two Enamels in Chinese Porcelain Explained

The auctioneer started at US$200,000, a bid from an absentee bidder, and waited for about a minute before an online bidder offered a higher bid. The bidding was joined by telephone bidders and room bidders. The auctioneer put the hammer down at US$850,000 and sold the bowls for US$1.04m (premium included) to a room bidder.

 The auction house’s strategy of setting a relatively low estimate has proven to be a successful one to attract more bidders to participate in the bidding. The bowl was sold for a price more than double its estimate of US$300,000-500,000.

The second most expensive lot was a pair of Huanghuali inlaid hat-chests from 17th/18th century, carrying an estimate of US$200,000-300,000. The present cabinets illustrate the Zhouzhi style in the transitional Late Ming/early Qing dynasties. With flowering branches arising from archaic-form vessels and objects, the inlay pattern shows an embrace of the guya (classic beauty and elegant taste) aesthetic trend, that touched numerous aspects of Chinese decorative arts during this period.

Opened at US$100,000, the hat chests elicited bids from telephone bidders and a room bidder. After a fierce bidding battle, the room bidder emerged victorious with a hammer price of US$480,000. The pair of huanghuali hat chests were sold for US$596,075 (premium included).

A gold commemorative bracelet, estimated at US$20,000-30,000, took everyone by surprise when it was hammered down at US$150,000. It was sold for US$187,575 and became the third top lot of the sale. The bracelet is decorated with two facing butterflies, which symbolises a joyful encounter, referring either to friends, or a husband and wife.

Top five lots

An Exceptionally Rare Pair of Imperial Famille Rose 'Quails and Chrysanthemums' Bowls
Yongzheng Six-character Marks and of the Period

Lot no.: 522
Diameter: 9.5cm
Provenance: Virginia Hobart (1876-1958), thence by descent
Estimate: US$300,000 - 500,000
Price realised: US$1,040,075

A Magnificent and Massive Pair of Huanghuali Inlaid Hat-chests
17th/18th Century

Lot no.: 512
Size: 158.8cm

  • An American Northwest private collection
  • An American Southern California private collection

Estimate: US$200,000 - 300,000
Price realised: US$596,075

A Very Rare Gold Commemorative Bracelet, 1839-1841

Lot no.: 631
Size: 5.1 x 6.4cm
Weight: 52.4g
Provenance: Dane and Peter Fay
Estimate: US$20,000 - 30,000
Hammer price: US$150,000
Price realised: US$187,575

A Rare Junyao Moon-white Glazed Numbered Narcissus Bowl
Early Ming Dynasty

Lot no.: 526
Diameter: 22cm
Virginia Hobart (1876-1958), thence by descent
Estimate: US$80,000 - 120,000
Hammer price: US$120,000
Price realised: US$150,075

A Rare Yellow-Ground Green-Enamelled 'Peach and Bird' Bowl

Lot no.: 523
Diameter: 12.4cm
Virginia Hobart (1876-1958), thence by descent
Estimate: US$20,000 - 30,000
Hammer price: US$120,000
Price realised: US$150,075

Auction details

Auction house: Bonhams New York
Sale: Chinese Works of Art
Lots offered: 255
Sold: 144
Unsold: 111
Sold by lot: 56%
Sale date: 18 March 2019