Photo feature L & T Asian sale preview in Edinburgh

L & T preview May 13 (5)

Potential buyers crowd Edinburgh auction house Lyon & Turnbull May 13 where selected items from forthcoming sales, including the June 4 Asian Sale, were on show.


L & T preview May 13 (10)

A showcase displaying a range of lots for sale at Lyon & Turnbull June 4 2014. Note the highly rated white jade decorative piece.

L & T preview May 13 (3) A fine pair of huanghuali and hongmu ‘master’ chairs

cloisonne bowl L&T A most unusual and attractive cloisonné bowl

The online catalogue for the June 4 sale has just been posted online at

Prices remain firm at Bonhams Edinburgh

Although there no sensationally high prices at Bonhams Edinburgh on March 26, many interesting lots achieved results way in excess of expectations. Lot 268, a large famille rose punch bowl, estimated pre-sale at £500-700, achieved £3,800 hammer despite two pronounced cracks. It was, indeed, very pretty and was almost certainly 18th century.  One of our favourites (Lot 142) was a banded agate bowl, thinly carved and containing natural whorls. There was no other information on it, estimated at £100-200, but it leapt away, on account of its prettiness, to £1,000.

A jade-mounted hand mirror catalogued as ’19th century but using earlier jade’ was also remarkably attractive and it easily made £4,000 as against its £500-800 estimate.

lot 148 jade mirror

Jade mounted hand mirror

Another, this time early 19th century, punchbowl, slightly unusual in having been produced for the Near Eastern market as opposed to the Western one, took £4,000. At 39.5cm. diameter it was quite large and in very good condition.

lot 274 punch bowl

Export punchbowl for the near Eastern market

One of the highest prices in the sale was for a majestic pair of Cantonese export floor vases, ca. 1850, which were, indeed, impressive, each standing to 104cm. including wooden stand. A hammer price of £8,200 for the pair seemed quite modest.

lot 297 pair vases

An impressive pair of floor vases

One lot illustrated just how prices can vary dramatically from sale to sale. A very pretty huanghuali table top display stand (most probably 20th century) which very recently ground to a halt at just under £2,000 at another auction house, achieved a very respectable £4,200. The vendor must have been rather pleased . . . we were, also, as we chose it as our Object of Desire, the first time it was exposed.

lot 336 huanghuali stand

A huanghuali table top display stand


Huanghuali furniture boom revs up

Huanghuali furniture has long been highly prized but there is now considerable evidence accumulating which indicates the market is revving up dramatically. During the Asian Art in London week, Christies sold a magnificent pair of huanghuali cabinets for £380,000 ($600,000), but even this price is totally eclipsed by the US$1,563,750 sale of two very large cabinets in New York on September 20 this year. At the same Christies sale in NYC a pair of 16th or 17th century horseshoe backed chairs achieved $75,000, with many more five-figure sales. That having been said, the highest price ever achieved was over $6m. for a Ming dynasty four poster bed at a Guardian auction in Beijing in 2010].

a_magnificent_and_very_rare_pair_of_massive_huanghuali_compound_cabine_d5719882h $1.5m in NY

What is changing now in the market is the fact that not just the older pieces of huanghuali furniture are fetching high prices: 19th and 20th century pieces, once abjured by serious collectors, are on the move also. Naturally, the later pieces are usually more affordable, but if they are well made and boast beautiful grain and a rich amber tone they will be sought after.

In next week’s Fine Asian Works of Art sale (December 11) Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull feature some 15 pieces of huanghuali furniture ranging from the attractive curio stand (our Object of Desire this week) to chairs and tables. But we particularly like Lot 25, essentially a miniature version of previous cabinets sold for big money. It is marked out by its attractive grain and deserves to do considerably better than its £4,000-6,000 estimate.

huanghuali cabinet lot 25 4-6,000                        Lot 25 Lyon & Turnbull December 11

Virtually all of the huanghuali being sold in the UK is destined to return to China, where it will be exposed for sale at even higher prices, if not absorbed instantly into private collections.

Note: the Chinese term huanghuali means ‘yellow flowering pear’ wood and is a member of the rosewood family classified as Dalbergia odorifea. The term huanghuali is relatively recent in use. Up until the early 20th century it was known as huali or hualu. The huang prefix (yellowish-brown) was added to describe old huali wood. It can be confused with hongmu visually, but its sweet fragrance marks it apart. The colour can range from reddish-brown to golden-yellow but amongst the most sought after finishes are those featuring ghost-like facial whorls. Supply of the wood is now extremely limited and it sells at around $1.6m. a ton.

Ming huanghuali 4 poster Y42m. $6m. bed