“I have a lot of people approach me with inquires about selling porcelain collections they have either inherited or amassed over the years. I am guessing this might be one of the reasons why:”
THE OWNERS of a Chinese imperial vase which sold for €110,000 at a Co Laois auction on Tuesday – a record-breaking price for ceramics at an Irish antiques sale – plan to sell the remainder of an inherited collection of oriental porcelain.
While the Co Carlow family wish to retain strict anonymity, the auctioneers acting on their behalf said they were unaware of the vase’s historical significance and its value when it was consigned for sale. The family did not attend the auction and missed seeing the vase sell for 1,000 times its estimated value.
Durrow-based auctioneers Sheppards said the owners were “shocked but also delighted and chuffed” by the sale. They were also coming to terms with the potential value and importance of the remaining items in the collection.
The family inherited the collection from two sisters who have since died, who had emigrated to the United States in the 1940s. The women lived and worked there for many years and amassed a collection of ceramics which they brought back to Ireland. The vase may have been bought in the city of Philadelphia.
A selection of about 20 pieces from the collection was included in the general sale of furniture and collectibles at Sheppards Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois, earlier this week. Most of the Chinese lots, including the vase, had pre-sale estimates of €100-€150.
However, international collectors who had spotted the vase on the internet recognised it as part of the personal collection of 18th-century Chinese emperor Qianlong. They travelled to Co Laois and sparked frenzied bidding, which resulted in the vase being sold for €110,000. A separate lot of two vases, with the same estimate, sold for €41,000.
Both lots were acquired by a London antiques dealer who outbid the wife of a collector in China, who had travelled from Beijing in a quest to buy the vase.
Auctioneer Philip Sheppard said the vase was “part of the first tranche” of the collection and the remainder would be sold at a future auction in Durrow.
The purchaser of the vase said he expected to make “a handsome profit” on its resale. Richard Peters said from his shop on Kensington Church Street that he was “absolutely delighted” with his purchase and described the vase as “incredibly perfect and a very special piece”. He will offer it for resale shortly and is confident it will appeal to collectors of oriental ceramics “especially in London and China”.
Mr Peters is “likely” to return to Co Laois for the sale of the rest of the Carlow collection.
Arabella Bishop, the head of Sotheby’s Ireland, was “excited about what happened in Durrow”. The Chinese market was “especially strong at the moment – particularly for good, fresh pieces, particularly those with an imperial connection”.
Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library, which has a world-class collection of oriental manuscripts, paintings and rare books, also houses a small collection of imperial Chinese porcelain which is available for public viewing “by appointment”.
Acting curator Laura Muldowney, said while she “could not comment on values”, thought the vase sold in Durrow “looks like a lovely piece” based on photographs. She said the Chester Beatty collection did not have any porcelain from the period of Emperor Qianlong but had pieces from the era of his grandfather, Emperor Kangxi.
Chinese vase smashes €150 guide price and sells for €110,000 in Laois
MICHAEL PARSONS in Durrow, Co Laois
A CHINESE vase with an asking price of just €150 sold at a Co Laois auction yesterday for €110,000.
The 12-inch-high blue-and-white porcelain vase attracted an opening bid of €50 – before a bidding war erupted between two international antique collectors.
Both had recognised it online as an authentic Imperial vase, and flew in for the one-day sale of furniture and collectibles at Sheppards Irish Auction House in Durrow.
Afterwards, the purchaser, London antique dealer Richard Peters (48), said: “I got a bargain.”
Underbidder Rong Chen (48), who had travelled from Beijing especially for the auction, said she was “very sad and disappointed”.
Her husband, an accountant and antique collector, had spotted the vase on the internet and believed “This is the one – we think it was in the Imperial household.”
The item was part of a collection of Chinese porcelain inherited by an unnamed Co Carlow family and consigned for sale. They were last night “chuffed and delighted” by the sale, the auctioneers said.
Mr Peters, who runs an antiques business in Kensington, said the vase was “made for the personal collection of the Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century”. He explained that the vase, in a shape known in Chinese as hu-yu-chun-ping, was decorated simply with “images of banana and bamboo trees”.
It had “probably been looted from the Imperial Palace in Peking by French or British or American soldiers sometime during the 19th century”, he added, describing the field of Chinese ceramics as “difficult because the market is filled with fakes and forgeries”.
When auctioneer Michael Sheppard called for an opening bid for the vase shortly after noon, he received an offer of just €50. But, within seconds, intense and frenzied bidding was under way and bids jumped, first in multiples of hundreds, and then thousands of euro. Mr Peters, who was seated, bid by nodding discreetly, while Ms Chen stood as she took instructions on a mobile phone from her husband. Later, she told The Irish Times that he had told her “to drop out at €100,000”.
When Mr Sheppard brought down the gavel at €110,000, there were gasps and then applause in the tightly packed saleroom.
Mr Sheppard said “that was the highest figure ever achieved for any item” in the 60-year history of the family-run firm of auctioneers and valuers. He said “something like this happens once in a lifetime”.
Mr Peters bought a second lot – a pair of Chinese polychrome vases – for €41,000. Like the Imperial vase, the items had carried a guide price of €100-€150.
Mr Peters returned to London last night with the items, which he is likely to sell to a Chinese client.
As the salesroom emptied, attendees spoke of their astonishment. David Stapleton, from the nearby town of Ballyragget, said “It was one of those moments. You had to be there – like the GPO in 1916.”