There has been no sign of market collapse in the many recent auctions and, as ever, quality pieces of Chinese art have not only sustained their values but appear to have climbed considerably. We have recently reported on the success of snuff bottles (Bonhams Edinburgh http://chineseart.co.uk/news/size-doesnt-matter-at-least-at-bonhams-edinburgh/ ) and Chinese lots sold in Wales (Peter Francis Carmarthen http://chineseart.co.uk/news/experts-rejected-record-breaking-chinese-celadon-vase/ ), There was also a most West country successful sale at Dukes in Dorchester where a wide range of lots achieved very substantial prices well in excess of their estimates. Lyrically entitled In Pursuit of the Scholar’s Spirit, the sale, held on November 12, was notable for many five figure prices. The sale started with a Chinese sancai cup (Lot 1), which sold for £15,860 against a modest £2,000 estimate. A small 4.5in. high 18th century bamboo brushpot achieved £58,000 (plus 22% premium) on the back of the high quality of its carving and auspicious nature of the subject matter, depicting the goddess Yaochi Jinmu (Queen Mother of the West) holding court within her palace on the mythological Mount Kunlun. It was accompanied by a 1984 receipt from Spink showing that it had been purchased for £700. It was one of 159 lots which came from a substantial private collection said to have been formed by a member of The Oriental Ceramics Society over a period of almost half a century from the 1950s onwards. Other items included Chinese parcel-gilt bronze ‘double phoenix’ scroll weight sold for £51,240 (incl.) A large green jade recumbent horse sold for £63,440 (incl.) A Chinese cloisonné miniature vase sold for £46,000 hammer
Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury held a 2-day sale and although they failed to sell the much vaunted Imperial clock (http://chineseart.co.uk/auctions/wooley-wallis-offer-exquisite-qianlong-clock/), there were a number of substantial prices. The highest price of the sale was achieved by a deep Chinese 40.6 cm. blue and white basin which got £74,000 hammer against an estimate of £2-3,000. In many respects it was a fairly ordinary piece of porcelain from the first half of the 19th century but the presence of a dragon in the centre of the piece probably served to get buyers excited, despite the absence of a mark.
The message from recent sales is unequivocal: the best, or the unusual, will always sell if the reserve is not set too high. Vendors need to have the courage to submit their lots and let the market decide. However, the era of silly prices for practically anything are now well and truly over.