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Imperial Vase Astounds Saleroom

April 30, 2020
Imperial Vase dutch men kneeling on wood platform

Imperial Vase

A word to the wise, please do not alter objects in your family’s collections, you may have no idea what you’re messing with and the impact it could have on future value. Years ago it was quite common to convert vases into lamps; even my grandmother had a pair of cut crystal vases (which were brought from Russia by her parents around 1902) turned into lamps, they are now in my brother’s possession.  While these may not have been of much value back in the 1940s when she created her one of a kind lamps, who knows what they might be worth today if they were still intact.

Along the same line, at a recent American and European Decorative Arts sale, a Qing vase was incorrectly cataloged as a Chinese export famille rose porcelain vase made in the 19th century for the European market. The misrepresentation led to a very unexpected result.  The vase, just 16 ½ inches high, featured two Dutch merchant figures kneeling on a wood platform while supporting the vase, as if they were gifting it to a Chinese Emperor. Unfortunately, the six-character reign mark had been removed by a drill hole when someone made it into a lamp – really?  What a mistake! Several bidders from around the world must have realized it was an Imperial vase, not a Chinese export, and with just a $1000/1500 estimate, a bidding war erupted.  The item opened at $1000, and two men in the saleroom shouted out ‘fifty thousand.” Still, with so much competition on the phones, online and in the saleroom, the bidding quickly escalated to the hammer price of $270K ($329.4 w/p), selling to one of the phone bidders. A great price, but  I wonder what it would have sold for if it was still in its original condition?