Forty times over top estimate for Buddha plaque in Glasgow!


Above: Lot 63 sold last Friday by Great Western Auctions, Glasgow, for £20,000

Attendees at last Friday’s antique auction held by Great Western Auctions in Glasgow were aghast when the bidding on Lot 63, modestly estimated at £300-500, opened with an internet bid of £11,000. Internet bidders drove the bidding up to £20,000 before the small 8.5cm. high gilt bronze Buddha plaque was knocked for forty times its pre-sale top estimate.

The provenance was somewhat vague. The catalogue declared it was ‘The Property of a Scottish Country House’ (sic.) which was not exactly a copper-bottomed provenance. However, that did not seem to bother the bidders (believed to be from China) who clearly recognised its worth.

There were 91 other Asian lots in the morning sale, including another interesting  devotional lot in the form of bronze and cloisonne ‘Buddhistic figure’ which sold for just under £1,000, inclusive of premium (picture below).



It is the end of the road for the famed, unique Butler collection

lr Butler Collection (11) Katharine Butler, who has acted as the custodian of her father’s collection since his death, pictured recently in the custom-made museum in Dorset. Photo by Paul Harris

We are sad to have to report that the unique and world famous Butler Collection of Transitional (17th century) Chinese porcelain will be broken up tomorrow, September 24. The four members of the warring Butler family will meet at a country house in Dorset in the morning. There, in a bizarre ritual, they will each, in turn, choose a piece of porcelain for their own personal use until all 500 pieces collected by diplomat Sir Michael Butler are distributed amongst them. This follows a London High Court judgement that the the collection should be split up amongst the two sisters and two brothers following a long and acrimonious ownership dispute. Katharine Butler (pictured above) had fought to keep the collection together as a resource of worldwide importance in which process, se understand, she has spent a very substantial six figure sum.

We have previousy written about this sad situation ( ). Intelligent members of the art world have universally criticised the destruction of the unique collection which is indubitably the best in the world in the context of Chinese 17th century porcelain. Ironically, the destruction of the collection  by dividing it up means that the individual pieces will have only a modest value: typically £3-5,000 each, bringing out a total value of just £2.5 million pounds. is aware of Chinese purchasers who would have fronted at least £20 million pounds to have the whole collection and who would have been prepared to put it on show, albeit in Shanghai or Beijing.


Christies celebrate 250 years with Shanghai events


Li Huayi (born 1948) Old Pine To be sold by Christies in Shanghai next month    Estimate £130,000-200,000

This October, Christie’s Shanghai are mounting two Autumn Auctions and viewings to celebrate Christie’s 250th anniversary. They feature a curated selection of exceptional artworks, a preview of selected jewellery from Hong Kong Autumn Auctions, international highlights and art forums.

Auctions and viewings will take place at two locations between October 18-22: First Open | Shanghai Chinese and Asian Contemporary Design Christie’s Shanghai Art Space Ampire Building, No. 97 Yuanmingyuan Road, Shanghai and Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Chinese Contemporary Ink Post-War and Contemporary Art with an auction October 22, 2:30pm and 6pm at the prestigious Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai No. 32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Road, Shanghai.


Fine Chinese porcelain to be offered at Esher Hall Antiques Fair

esher2 Some of the fine pieces to be offered by Catherine Hunt Oriental Antiques

There will be some pieces of particularly fine Chinese porcelain available for purchase at The Esher Hall Antiques & Fine Art Fair early next month. The Fair, which is supported by Savills Esher and NFU Mutual Godalming, showcases offerings from some 35 leading specialist dealers. It takes place for the ninth consecutive year in the Esher Hall at Sandown Park Racecourse, Portsmouth Road, Esher, Surrey KT10 9AJ from Friday 7 to Sunday 9 October.

Organised by The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited, the fair has earned itself a reputation for its commitment to the highest standards: beautifully appointed room-sets sit alongside stands of glittering jewellery and walls hung with antique and contemporary paintings, creating an enviable look far removed from the day-to-day sporting activities normally taking place in Sandown Park’s Esher Hall. Everything will be for sale with prices from £100 to upwards of £50,000.

As well as the regular faces who return annually to exhibit, there is a good handful of new dealers, including Cheltenham-based Catherine Hunt Oriental Antiques specialising in fine Chinese porcelain. Of course, buying at a Fair of this calibre means that you are obliged to dig deep in the pocket but you can expect to acquire the best, in excellent condition, and with a guarantee of authenticity from a reputable dealer, unlike the ‘jungle’ of the auction room.

esher-1 All the above are available for purchase from Catherine Hunt Oriental Antiques. From left to right: Kangxi pear-shaped bottle vase at £4,800; early Ming stem cup £3,800; and Kangxi brush pot or bitong at £7,000.

Dealer L R Duveen will also be seeking a good home for a stunning 19th century export lacquer box which appears to come in excellent condition, unlike so many offered on the market these days.

l-r-duveen-chinese-export-lacquer-box Export lacquer box to be available at Esher Hall from L R Duveen

Twenty times estimate for unusual wooden vase sold at Chiswick Auctions

143 wooden vase

A surprise twenty times the lower estimate was paid yesterday at Chiswick Auctions for an unusual wooden vase offered together with a wooden tray. The hammer price of £2,000 (estimate £100-200) was realised despite the loss of a section of the wood at the neck and rim of the meiping-style vase, and severe warping to the tray

The vase was, in fact, a Shen Shao’an lacquered vase, according to the auctioneers’ cataloging. Although it was suggested it was late Qing Dynasty, it may have been rather earlier and, indeed, it would have to have been if actually produced under the direction of the original master. In our view, the vase was rather earlier than the tray.

The vase was delicately painted with a watery landscape scene populated with figures, the vase 37cm H, the tray 38.5 x 61cm. (2) The style of decoration was very much of the body-less technique pioneered by Shen Shao’An.

This lacquer technique traces its origins back to the work of Shen Shao’an, lacquer master craftsman active during the Qianlong era. The technique substitutes the use of a coarse linen base with much thinner silk in a technique sometimes referred to as ‘bodiless’ lacquerware. It also introduced gold and silver foil into the paints to create a wider range of colours and silky glow to the image. The technique is a specialism of Fuzhou and was sent to Beijing as a form of Imperial tribute.

Chiswick Asian Sale Sept 6 2016

The scene at yesterday’s Chiswick Auctions Asian Sale

The founding father of Fuzhou bodiless lacquer ware was Shen Shao’an (1767 – 1835), a lacquer ware craftsman from Houguan County (today’s Fuzhou City) of Fuzhou Prefecture during Emperor Qianlong’s reign in the Qing Dynasty.   Shen Shao’an opened a shop named after himself around Shuangpao Bridge in Yangqiao Road in Fuzhou, processing lacquer at the same time as making and selling small commodities like lacquer chopsticks, lacquer bowls, lacquer plates, and so on.

Once when he was doing odd jobs in an ancient temple, he found the wood of the inscribed board at the temple gate had rotten, while the base mounted by lacquer ash and grass linen remained in perfect condition. Enlightened by the phenomenon, Shen Shao’an followed the making method of the inscribed board. He designed a model with clay first, then mounted grass linen outside the model, and painted with lacquer. When the lacquer was dried, he removed the clay model, and painted with lacquer again. After testing and improving over and over again, Shen Shao’an finally created the earliest bodiless lacquer ware.

The bodiless lacquer ware making technique created by Shen Shao’an caused quite a stir when it was discovered. The bodiless chrysanthemum-shaped red lacquer bowl with cover Shen Shao’an offered to the imperial court measuring 10 cm high and 10.8 cm in caliber was thin as a piece of paper, less than 1 mm thick. Emperor Qianlong was overjoyed to see the tribute and wrote in official script a poem inside the lid and in the centre of the bowl respectively. This piece of lacquer ware is now preserved in the Palace Museum.

The prrovenance of the vase sold at Chiswick was rather good: something that always helps a lot along these days. The two pieces both came from the Collection of Herbert Dixon Summers (1871-1953), Secretary Directorate General of Posts Peking, and family, thence by descent to the present owner. 清晚期 沈绍安黑漆描金山水漆瓶及托盘

For comparable examples see Debenham and Freebody, The Famous ‘Shen Shao An’ Gold Lacquer of Foochow China. An Account of its Origins and Curious Characteristics, London: Debenham and Freebody, 1914, p 5.