‘Fantastic’ vase with seven figure estimate fails to sell in Glasgow

Mulberry Bank vase

High hopes were dashed today at Glasgow’s Mulberry Bank Auctions as their much vaunted sale of an Imperial yellow Jiaqing vase failed to take off. Estimated at £1.5-2m., the bidding started on the telephone at £650,000. Two telephone bidders were pitted against each other but bidding was slow and petered out at £780,000. Internet bidding was not allowed, which may have been a mistake.

The Glasgow auctioneer, who had repeatedly described the vase as ‘a fantastic piece’, was palpably disappointed and advised the room ‘this is just not going to be enough’. He added, ‘Please contact us after the sale.’

The auctioneers had sent out more than a dozen information packs all over the world. They also averred that it was just as good as a similar vase sold in Hong Kong by Christies at £9m. That may or may not be the case but one London dealer, who did not bid, told us that, in his opinion, ‘the decoration is not that good’.

Mulberry Bank will doubtless hope that it can be sold by private treaty in the coming days. It is understood to have a reserve in the region of £1m.

Mulberry Bank vase base Mulberry Bank vase mark

The catalogue entry for the vase reads as follows:

VERY RARE EARLY JAIQING (1796 – 1820) IMPERIAL CHINESE YELLOW GROUND FAMILLE ROSE BOTTLE VASE BEARING QIANLONG BLUE FOUR CHARACTER SEALMARK Profusely decorated in colourful enamels with four large blossoming lotus around the lower body, the neck with iron red and blue bats suspending intertwined wan emblems, ruyi and further lotus, all on a lemon yellow ground, with out-curved shaped rim decorated with ruyi, raised on a circular foot decorated with petals, the base bearing labels for ‘Dartington Hall Chinese Exhibition 1965’ and ‘J.A.G. Saunders Collection – 631’, 32.5cm high Notes The vase dates from the very early Jiaqing reign but bears the Qianlong mark, which was not uncommon on these early transitional pieces. Turned-down ruyi mouths of this type are rare on porcelain vessels, as they would have been difficult to make and fire successfully. These mouths seen on Ming and Qing dynasty porcelains may ultimately derive from the vases with lobed turned-down mouths made in the 12th and 13th centuries. The distinctive ruyi shape of the mouth on vessels such as the current vase appears to be a Qianlong innovation, an example of which can be seen in the Palace Museum Beijing. A very similar example was sold by Christie’s as part of the Fonthill Collection. It was sold on 1st December 2010 in Hong Kong as lot 2981and achieved HKD90,260,000. The similarity between the two vases could even suggest that they are from the same kiln and potter. The decoration on the vase includes various auspicious emblems: upside-down bats symbolising the arrival of happiness. This happiness is multiplied by the wan characters, meaning ten thousand, which hang from the ribbons. These same ribbons are slotted through ruyi, from which in turn lotus blossoms are suspended. The ruyi symbolises ‘everything as you wish’, while the lotus is a Buddhist symbol of purity and beauty. Provenance J.A.G Saunders Collection label – Sir John Saunders CBE, DSO, MC (1917-2002) was chairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation from 1962 – 1972. Sold in 1982 to a private collector by renowned American dealer Charlie Gerhardt.

THIS LOT IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR ONLINE BIDDING PLEASE CONTACT THE AUCTION HOUSE DIRECTLY ON 0141 225 8181 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.