Considered the holy grail of Chinese art, a tiny Ming-dynasty porcelain cup adorned with chickens brought $36 million on Tuesday in Hong Kong.
The sought-after "Chicken Cup," dating from the 15th century, is among 19 known to exist and is one of four left in private hands. Depicting a cockerel, his hen, and their chicks, the 3-inch piece supposedly boasts Imperial provenance. It is believed that the Chenghua Emperor gave them to his favorite concubine.
Shanghai businessman Liu Yiqian was reportedly the buyer at the Sotheby's sale. He made a fortune in stock trading and has built two private museums, with his wife. Liu paid ten times what the Chicken Cup sold for 15 years ago.
The price (including commissions) is a new world auction record for Chinese porcelain. The previous record was for a Qianlong vase that fetched $32.4 million in 2010.
“It is the fantasy of all great collectors," said Sotheby's Nicholas Chow of the coveted cup. "There is nothing greater, nothing.”