Northumberland auctioneer Railtons to sell Chinese treasure trove

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A small pretty jar with delicately enamelled decoration of a phoenix is coming up at Railtons on May 14

Northumberland auctioneer Jim Railton (www.jimrailton.com) has just posted more than 50 Chinese lots on the-saleroom.com for auction on Saturday May 14 (http://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/railtons/catalogue-id-srra10012) in his quarterly antiques sale.

It is rather a mixed assemblage but there are a few distinctly interesting lots including an early Ming dish (possibly Yuan); a pretty little jar with Imperial ‘Heaven’ mark to the base; an unusual Hongxi mark dish; several doucai vases, and a striking Mongolian bowl. Auctioneer Jim Railton says they come from a couple of ‘good’ private collections in the Borders, from owners ‘fed up with being messed about by posh London auction houses’. It has been a common complaint of late levelled against certain ‘top’ auction houses that they take ages to reply to potential vendors and then hold on to items for an unconscionable length of time.

‘I think there are some rather worthwhile lots coming up. Let’s see what happens . . . ‘, said Jim yesterday. For those who think that a trip to the wilds of Northumberland is a bridge too far, the sale will be available live on the popular platform the-saleroom.com. Estimates vary widely – from £20 to £8,000. There seems to be adequate room for a few ‘sleepers’ here . . . There is a table screen which is labelled as having come from Carlton House in London, inlaid with semi-precious stones to one side and gilded on the other.

Meantime, we have selected a  few of what we think are amongst the most interesting lots. An early Ming blue and white dish boasts peony flowers to the cavetto, anhua dragons around the rim, and an unglazed base.

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Detail of an early Ming dish at Railtons May 14

15a Base of a colourful Hongxi dish at Railtons May 14

10 Blue & iron red bulbous flask with Xuande mark but later at Railtons May 14

11 Blue & iron red bowl also with Xuande mark, but later, at Railtons

12 Mongolian bowl at Railtons

Opium War Chinese treasures surface at Scottish auction

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Eden Hall, home of Lady Loch and the scene of Saturday’s sale

A number of Chinese art works, previously unseen, surfaced this weekend at a country house sale in the Scottish borders. Wooller-based auctioneers Railtons, acting on behalf of the former Rt Hon Lady Loch, sold off more than 300 lots at the Loch family home, Eden Hall, near Kelso. The lots included several Chinese items acquired by the 1st Baron Loch whilst working as a soldier and diplomat in China during the Second Opium War, which conflict culminated in the destruction of the Old Imperial Summer Palace (Yuanminguan) in 1861.

The items sold – intricately carved ivory pieces and two ornamental roof tiles – were acquired by Henry Brougham Loch (23 May 1827-20 June 1900), later 1st Baron Loch, in China in 1861 as the Second Opium War came to a violent conclusion. In April 1860, he accompanied Lord Elgin to China as secretary to the embassy despatched to ensure compliance of China with treaty engagements.

NPG P1700(44b); Henry Brougham Loch, 1st Baron Loch by Unknown photographer

Henry Brougham Loch who took home Chinese treasures, acquired in the Second Opium War and the destruction of Yuanminguan, in 1862

During the advance on Peking, together with the UK’s ‘man in China’ Harry S Parkes, a small party of officers and The Times correspondent Thomas Bowlby,Henry Brougham Loch was seized by the Chinese whilst flying a flag of truce. The whole party was imprisoned in Peking: most were tortured and many died. Loch survived his incarceration in a dungeon but would never fully recover from his injuries.

However, he stayed on and witnessed the retaliatory destruction, on the orders of Lord Elgin, of the old Summer Palace (Yuanminguan), just outside Peking,  in 1861. He returned to Britain the following year with trophies from the campaign, of which the ones below were handed down through the Loch family by descent and sold at auction at Eden Hall on March 7 2015 on the instructions of Sylvia Hawkins, The Rt Hon Lady Loch (the fourth, and last, Lord Loch, her late husband, died in 1981).

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Two Chinese roof tiles from the Loch collection

In the catalogue of the sale the origin of some of the items sold is erroneously attributed to The Boxer Rebellion (the 1st Baron died in England as this was taking place).  His involvement in The Second Opium War is, however, extensively recorded. Speaking to chinesart.co.uk on Saturday before the auction, Lady Loch confirmed that she had made an error in recollection and confused the Boxer Rebellion with the Second Opium War, when British and Indian prisoners were taken by the Chinese.

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A unusual beautifully carved ivory pomegranate from the Loch Collection

Most of the Chinese lots, including those illustrated here, were bought by chineseartinscotland.co.uk. Said Sun Yumei, a partner in the business, yesterday, “It is very rare to get the opportunity to buy Chinese artefacts with impeccable provenance, especially ones with a connection to the destruction of Yuanminguan. The parasol handle was clearly made for a very important person and we are convinced of its Imperial association, judging from the quality. We shall be offering it for sale on our website very shortly.”

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An exquisitely carved ivory parasol handle once owned by a very important person and part of the Loch Collection.