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Same Old Story…Just A Different Vase

October 22, 2019

Same old story – a beautiful little Chinese vase makes a really great price at auction!

Qinglong enameled glass vase

Qinglong enameled glass vase

Sotheby’s just finished its autumn auction week in Hong Kong with some wonderful results. Overall, the sales generated $426M…not too bad considering all that’s going on there. One of the week’s highlights was a single item sale featuring a Qinglong enameled glass vase. The pouch shaped vase, only 7 ½ inches tall, was created in the workshops of the Forbidden City in Beijing during the early years of the Qianlong emperor’s reign, c. 1738. (The Forbidden City, built between 1406 – 1420, served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government for almost 500 years.)

The vase, which really looks more like a bottle wrapped in a yellow cloth and tied with a pink ribbon, was decorated with phoenixes, clouds and peonies by the imperial painters in the enamel workshops. It is believed that a companion piece (currently housed at the Hong Kong Museum of Art) was made at the same time. Both pieces remained in the Imperial House of the Qing Dynasty until they became part of the collection of Yixin, known as the first Prince Gong (1833 – 1898), the sixth son of the Emperor and a notable statesman in his own right.

The vase featured in the auction had a detailed history of ownership as it had traded hands several times since being a part of Prince Gong’s collection. The last time it sold was 19 years ago through Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for HK$24.2M (US$2M). This time, Sotheby’s estimated the vase to sell in excess of HK$200M and the result came in really close. Bidding started at HK$150M and  several telephone bidders competed for the prize. It did not take long before the hammer came down at HK$180M. With the premium added in, the total came to HK$207M (US$26.4).