Newly Discovered Imperial Chinese Jar Expected to Fetch £½ Million at Auction

  • LONDON, United Kingdom
  • /
  • October 31, 2011

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A large doucai, ‘Lotus and Bats’ jar and cover, Qianlong seal mark and period, est. £300,000-500,000.

When antiques appraiser Jeremy Rye was invited to a house in Shropshire, England, to look at an English dessert service, little did he know that he would spot an Imperial Chinese vase and cover worth £500,000. The vase, which measures almost 50cm high, had spent most of the last 30 years unrecognized on the floor of a dining room by a window.

The extraordinary large and elegant Doucai ‘Lotus and Bats’ baluster-shaped jar and cover, dating from the Qianlong Period (1736-95) is one of the most expensive lots in Sotheby’s auction of Fine Chinese Ceramic s and Works of Art on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at New Bond Street, London. Its large body is magnificently decorated with an ornate composition of bats in mid-flight and lotus scrolls in rich doucai enamels.

Fine art agent, Rye, said: “I had been called to appraise a an English Dessert Service, but my eye was immediately drawn to the 18inch vase that was sitting on the floor. The owners had no idea of its value, and I suspect that they would have parted with it for a few hundred pounds!"

Unfortunately the owners do not know the exact story of the vase, but their ancestors traded in the Far East and were collectors, so presumably that is how it was acquired.

“These imperial-quality wares have always been sought after, but in the last 10 years, with the rise of the Chinese economy, their values have risen enormously. This vase also bears the reign mark of Qianlong which helps it enormously. Much Chinese porcelain is spuriously marked or as the Chinese potters claim, marked in the honour of the potting skills of their ancestors," explains Rye.

He continues: “The term doucai or ‘dovetailing colours’ is applied to a small group of top-quality porcelain, which was first produced for a short period during the Ming dynasty at the end of the 15th century, the style was revived in the Qing dynasty during the reign of Quianlong’s predecessor Kangxi.”

Jeremy Rye worked for Sotheby’s for 20 years from the late 1970s and has for the last 11 years run a Fine Art Agency ‘Jeremy Rye Ltd.’ from his Estate near Welshpool advising clients internationally. His clients include National Museums and the National Trust, on whose Welsh Committee he was for many years. He first became aware of these exquisite Chinese imperial taste wares at the first house sale he was involved in for Sotheby’s at Prawles in East Sussex. The largest collection of Imperial taste wares that Mr Rye has handled was the Toms Collection, which came from Chateau de Coisins near Lausanne (Switzerland) and was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1995.

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