Qianlong Period bronze censer hammered to over $1 million

  • June 23, 2010 19:12

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A two-foot high Qianlong Period gilt bronze censer sold for US$1,386,000 on 22June 2010 at Bonhams & Butterfields’ sale of Asian art in San Francisco. The 250-year old censer was described by the auctioneers as “fine and rare;” its bell-form bowl is decorated overall with rows of bronze lotus petals above a base of three gilt bronze elephant heads.
Courtesy Bonhams & Butterfields

A heated bidding battle sent a two-foot high Qianlong Period gilt bronze censer to a final sale price of $1.38-million (with buyer's premium) on June 22 at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco. An Asian private buyer secured the rare bell-form vesssel in a strong Asian Art auction realizing $4.7 million total for 370 lots.

The 250-year old censer, made for burning incense, was decorated overall with rows of bronze lotus petals above a base of three gilt bronze elephant heads. Bidding started at $40,000 for the hotly-contested lot.

“Fresh objects of Chinese taste are an irresistible magnet, drawing our international buyers to flock to bid at auction,” noted Bonhams’ VP and Asian art department director Dessa Goddard.

Competitive bidding pushed values of several lots above their estimates.  Another Qianlong Period piece, a fine greenish white jade plaque carved with a continuous elaborate landscape on the front and back, brought $79,300. 

An 18th century huanghuali clothing rack, featuring carved dragon heads, excited multiple international telephone bidders, selling for $134,000. A huanghuali and mixed wood altar table, late Qing/Republic Period, went for $230,000.

Within the sale’s porcelains, a massive 19th century blue and white porcelain jardinière, painted with depictions of lion dogs riding waves around its exterior walls, brought $103,700.


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