Size doesn’t matter – at least at Bonhams Edinburgh

Bonhams Edinburgh room

Bonhams Edinburgh rooms before the sale

The old adage ‘size doesn’t matter’ was borne out at Bonhams Edinburgh November 18 Asian Art sale. Consistently high prices were achieved in a small section of the sale devoted to cinnabar lacquer snuff bottles. There were 11 lots comprising single bottles and one lot of six extensively repaired bottles.

The six bottles lot made £21,000 on the hammer (against an estimate of just £6-800) and two single bottle lots over £6,000 (estimates £5-600) with several lots of single bottles around £4,000 each. Two similar lots made just £300 each: what might be regarded, perhaps, as the normal sort of price.

So, what was going on, those in the room puzzled? Probably, the auctioneer also, although Ian Glennie perched on the podium appeared unfazed by the dramatic results achieved. All the bottles were interesting in that they were deeply carved, some with continuous wraparound scenes. All bore a satisfactory patina of age suggesting they could be early 19th century, if not older.

Gossip in the trade suggests that the small red bottles were recognised by several London dealers as coming from a little known collection which, in turn, had acquired them several decades ago from a well known collection. Clearly, Bonhams were unaware of this otherwise they might have been exposed for sale in London. As it was, telephone and internet bidding was fast and furious producing a very happy result for auctioneers and vendor.

Yixing teapot

Lot 354  Yixing enamelled teapot £38,000 hammer

The other star in the sale was Lot 354, a large enamelled Yixing teapot and cover circa 1820 and signed by Xiao Yuanhua. There were clearly some hopes for it as it was estimated at £5,000-8,000. In the event, it was knocked down at £38,000, plus 25% buyer’s commission.



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