Last month we confidently predicted that ‘unpredictability will set the tone for 2017’ after a miscatalogued Chinese rare altar vase catalogued as 20th century soared to £252,000. Well, folks, it has happened again, on an even more mega scale. On February 27, at auctioneers Fellows in Birmingham, another supposedly 20th century jar, without any convincing provenance, soared 450 times over estimate (£1200-1800) to reach a staggering £810,000.
Mr Huddleston of Fellows said “We are delighted with the house-record sale of the Chinese wucai fish vase. This vase was consigned via a Chinese client.” Surprising, indeed. The jar/vase went into a general antiques and collectables sale after the auctioneers decided it was 20th century. “Initial research when cataloguing had pointed to a number of historic precedents sold in the tens and hundreds of thousands.
“However, we examined the decoration to the collar and felt that it lacked sophistication of these early pieces.” The idea of it being a real Jiajing (1521-7) 500 year-old jar without cover was rejected but the auctioneers were in for a shock, albeit a pleasant one as the house record was broken.
Bidding began at £1,000 with a handful of telephone bidders plus the usual hundreds online and several bidders in the room. Eventually a bidder in the room caved in at £800,000 and the vase went to a telephone bidder.
One bidder had even flown in from Japan but will have returned home empty handed.
Auctioneers faced in recent years with a flood of fakes now, it appears, are becoming too nervous to take an optimistic view on Chinese items submitted for sale without rock solid provenance. That means the trend of ‘surprises’ will be a feature of the market. And, of course, there will be the ones that get away . . .