This past year, we covered many items that set auction records when they sold. They included David Drake’s American pottery, an ancient Roman marble statue, a double eagle gold coin, Billy the Kid’s revolver, and of course, the U.S. Constitution. Somehow, I missed this one – an Imperial yangcai revolving vase from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) that sold in Beijing this past September. It is now the most valuable Chinese ceramic sold at auction; the previous record was set in 2017 when a ceramic Ru Guanyao brush washer sold for $38M.
According to the provenance listed by the auction house, a private collector from Scotland acquired it in 1875, and it stayed in the family until the descendants sold it at Christie’s London in 1999. The vase was purchased at that sale by William Chak, a Chinese art dealer, for a mere £331K/$537K; in turn, he sold it to an Asian collector.
The vase is in nearly perfect condition, and the superb craftsmanship and unique mechanism that enables you to rotate the inner vase, set it apart from other vases. The double-layer construction is crafted from four separate pieces. The outer vessel is carved with a stunning openwork phoenix scene that allows you to see the beautiful decorations on the inner vase as it spins. At almost 25 inches in height, it is the second tallest example known to exist.
The rarity and condition spurred a strong opening bid of RMB200M (just over $31M) and escalated quickly to RMB 231M, where it hammered down. Once the premium was added, the final price for the magnificent vase was RMB 265.7 ($41.6M). What an incredible return for one very savvy collector!