Chiswick Auctions head for the high ground

West London-based auction house Chiswick have embarked upon a significant expansion of their activities, not least in the Asian Department.  In advance of their February 27 Asian Art Sale, Chiswick have revealed that they will hold a series of specialist sales within the category.

Their specialist Chinese paintings sales, launched last year, have, they say, been outstandingly successful. In November last year (their second such sale), they sold a Xu Naigu handscroll for a record breaking £267,600. The sale of this outstanding and important work secured for Chiswick a prestigious Asian Art in London award which was present to department head and Asian Art specialist Lazarus Halstead at a champagne gala evening held within the then unopened new Joseph Hutong Gallery at the British Museum.

20171109_201636 Asian Art in London, November 2017 and Lazarus Halstead receives the AAL auction award on behalf of Chiswick for their hand scroll by Xu Naigu, sold for £267,600  Photo by Paul Harris

Buoyed by this success, Chiswick announce a series of specialist Asian sales: Netsuke on February 27; Fine Chinese Paintings on May 14; Chinese Bronzes Song to Qing on May 24/5: and The Dragon in Chinese Art in November. These are in addition to the usual biannual Asian Art sales.

Chiswick recently appointed a Japanese specialist, Yasuko Kido, to supplement the efforts of Lazarus Halstead. Separately, other departments are being expanded: Beatrice Campi has been appointed Islamic and Indian Specialist and three book specialists formerly with Bloomsbury Auctions (now closed) have been taken on board. This is in addition to two fine art specialists who have come from the now closed Christies South Kensington (CSK).

Chiswick’s ambitions have, to some extent, been fed directly by the closure of CSK which is perceived by many to have left a distinct gap in the market for the sale of rather more modest pieces now abjured by the ‘big three’ (Sothebys, Christies & Bonhams). There will, however, be competitors in the market place: London-based Roseberys, Edinburgh & London based Lyon & Turnbull and Salisbury house Woolley & Wallis amongst them. Both regional competitors L&T and W&W now have London offices.


Twelve years, twelve great treasures Woolley & Wallis record their success in a new book

Woolley book cover  Cover of the newly released Wooley and Wallis celebratory volume

There are two times of the year when there is the relentless thud of heavy packages hitting the floor below our capacious letter box. One of those times is April, ahead of the May sales of Chinese art, and the other is now upon us ahead of Asian Art in London (November 2-11) and the plethora of Chinese art auctions in the UK (curently standing at almost three dozen!).

Some of these catalogues are relatively modest affairs, others are massive heavy objects which bring to mind the story told to me by a former well known editor of The Los Angeles Times. In the 1970s, their paper became so large that one reader sent them a legal missive alleging that the destructive force of their paper had killed his dog on its downward trajectory. They didn’t find it necessary to pay up; that is another story.

The story came to mind last week when the Bonhams Chinese Fine Art Sale (November 9) catalogue popped through the letterbox. At just under 400 pages, and printed on 180gsm paper, although potentially a fearsome weapon, it is, in the event, a treasure trove of exquisite objects.

Rather different was a package from Salisbury auctioneers Woolley & Wallis. It was, by far, the most modest and unassuming of the week.s packages. However, it revealed a most beautiful, slim harback book bound in cloth and stamped in gold. Twelve Years, Twelve Treasures is, effectively, the story of the twelve highest achieving Asian lots handled by W&W. It is a chronicle of some remarkable pieces.

Wooley Alexander vasr

The W&W reputation was on the road to establishment in July 2005 when W&W sold a magnificent Yuan dynasty double-gourd vase for £2,600,000 (above), the record price for any object sold in a UK provincial auction house. It became known as The Alexander Vase after its original UK owner (1876). In May 2009 the record was broken again with an Imperial spinach-green jade water buffalo from the Qianlong period (below), which sold for a hammer price of £3,400,000. It, in turn, would become known as The Pelham Water Buffalo, after its former owner Sackville George Pelham (188-1948).

The May 2010 sale outperformed the equivalent Asian sales at the London salerooms, containing the season’s two top lots and becoming the then highest grossing sale ever at any regional auction house in the UK; a record we were to later beat at our November 2010 sale.

Woolley bull

As might be expected, the reproductions are superb and the text represents an important record of the history of twelve distinguished pieces. The book already occupies a permanent place on my crowded Asian art shelves . . .

You can look at the book online at


Qianlong scores at Woolley & Wallis

017 The Qianlong mixed media diorama whch scored at Woolley & Wallis this week

Items from the Qianlong period continue to lead at the salerooms symbolising the apogee of taste. Two Qianlong lots were amongst the highest achievers this week at Salisbury auctioneers Woolley & Wallis. We particularly liked the Imperial diorama, Lot 17, which was a mixed media lot incorporating paper, glass and stained ivory (no demonstrators outside the saleroom this time!). It beautifully depicted figures in a river landscape with two ladies peeping through the door of a pavilion. The foreground with a small group of figures on two sampans and a trio of musicians by a pavilion under the shade of weeping willows serenading two scholars beside a tall rock. The frame was glazed with a sheet of glass painted on the inside with clouds and a skein of geese, 58cm x 45.8cm. From an English private collection in Surrey, it got £36,000 on the hammer.

The highest scoring lot in the sale was a Chinese pale celadon jade rectangular-section vase standing 15cm. high. Also Qianlong, it was carved in relief with a band of studs bordered by key fret, with a ferocious scaly five-clawed dragon climbing to one side, its sinuous tail extending around the vase, raised on a reticulated scrolling hardwood stand, It was in many ways similar to one illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum, Jade 10, Qing Dynasty, p.76, no.47.

Sold for £58,000, it was purchased by a Hong Kong Collector.








Buyer pays over a million pounds for doucai jar at Woolley & Wallis


The jar was displayed last week at Woolley & Wallis’ new London office in Clifford Street, Mayfair      Photo by Paul Harris

Hopes at Woolley & Wallis today were firmly focused on Lot 88 in their Asian Art sale. And rightly so, as it turned out. The little jar – Yongzheng with cover – well exceeded the estimate of £100,000-200,000 to get a closing bid of £880,000. The buyer will be forking out well over a million pounds by the time buyer’s premium and VAT is taken into account. Altgether not a bad result for something bought in 1946 for just nine pounds, ten shillings!

Woolley & Wallis described it thus in their catalogue: SIX CHARACTER YONGZHENG MARK IN UNDERGLAZE BLUE AND OF THE PERIOD 1723-35. The ovoid body gently tapering at the foot, delicately painted in underglaze blue with two scaly yinglong (winged dragons) in flight amongst scrolling clouds, a band of scalloped lappets to the shoulder and foot embellished with doucai enamels, the circular flattened cover with a single yinglong within concentric bands, the base with a paper label for Bluett & Sons, London, 11cm across, 10.4cm high. (2)

Provenance: a British private collection. Purchased from Bluett & Sons, London, 1st May 1946, for £9:10.

Cf. The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, p.233, no.214, where a comparable jar and cover from the Yongzheng reign is illustrated. A jar without a cover in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum is illustrated in A Hougron’s publication, La Céramique chinoise ancienne, p.212. For a tian jar dating to the Chenghua period after which this example is modelled, see the Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, The Legacy of Chenghua, Imperial Porcelain of the Chenghua Reign Excavated from Zhushan, Jingdezhen, p.310, no.C111; another from the Percival David Foundation is illustrated by R Scott & S Pierson in Flawless Porcelains: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, p.36, no.17. For an example with a cover sold at Sotheby & Co, see The Collection of W W Winkworth Esq, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Bronzes, 12th December 1972, lot 119, purchased by H Moss for £580.

來源:英國私人收藏,1946年5月1日以£9.10的價格購於Bluett & Son, London

北京故宮博物館有一例雍正仿成化紋飾的鬥彩應龍蓋罐刻字比較,見《故宮博物院文物珍品大系——五彩·鬥彩》香港,2008,頁233,圖214;另見英國維多利亞及阿爾伯特博物館藏一例同一紋飾無蓋鬥彩應龍罐,詳見A Hougron’s publication著,《 La Céramique chinoise ancienne》,頁212.

W W Winkworth Esq家族亦舊藏一件鬥彩應龍紋罐(蓋可能後配),後於蘇富比拍賣行于1972年12月12日售出·編號119.當時由Hugh Moss以£580的价格购得。

Busy, indeed, but no sensations . . . we look at an auction-packed week

Last week was one of the busiest weeks of the year in the UK Chinese art market calendar with major Asian auctions held at Chiswick Auctions, Dreweatts & Bloomsbury (Donnington Priory), Woolley & Wallis (Salisbury) and Duke’s in Dorchester. We attended all these auctions and, indeed, were buyers at all four and, further, visited Halls in Shrewsbury to collect purchases from the previous week’s Asian sale.

Prices held steady throughout all the auctions. There was no evidence of any collapse in the Chinese market. There were Chinese buyers evident at all the sales. There were not so many of them as in recent years but those who were evident on the ground were all serious buyers. Good things, generally speaking, sold well and although there were no sensations in terms of prices achieved, there were good solid results at all the houses.

May auctions (15)

Calm before the storm. Chiswick auction room before the sale. Picture by Paul Harris

In financial terms, the Chiswick sale was particularly good for the auction house and its vendors. A large number of lots estimated in the low hundreds climbing into the many thousands surprised those of us in the room. A pile of sundry books sold for £2,000 (one particular book being a sought after item). The sale started well with the first 69 lots coming from the collection of John Marriott and Count R L Sangorski. Purchased from major dealers like Spink and auction houses like Christies, these lots, many accompanied by the original invoices, sold spectacularly well, generally exceeding their estimates. Progress during the sale was painfully slow thanks to half a dozen telephone lines in almost constant use and the usual internet bidders. Around 50 lots per hour was achieved.

For Chiswick, this was their best sale ever seen in its 25 year history. It achieved an 85% sold rate with 82 lots from the Marriott collection bringing in £84,000 including premium. There were also strong results from Transitional period blue and white and photographic albums up for sale.May auctions (32)

Dreweatts sale at Donnington Priory  Photo by Paul Harris

At Dreweatts & Bloomsbury’s delightfully sited auction  room at Donnington Priory, near to Newbury, things were a little less frenetic despite there being several internet connections for bidders. The auctioneer welcomed the fact that there were around 40 active buyers in the room (approximately half Chinese) and commented on how unusual it was. Despite the many ways available to buy (half a dozen telephone lines, four Internet servers and room bidding), it was still possible to buy well, especially for those in the room. Chinese buyers ascribed their good luck to the presence in the room of a large ceramic statue of the Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung!

May auctions (26)

Mao Tse Tung presided over the Asian Sale at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury, Donnington Priory.  Photo by Paul Harris courtesy Chinese Art in Scotland

There were certainly a few ‘sleepers’. We think we found one in the form of a mid-to-late 19th century Chinese stick stand very well decorated with dragons and bearing the original label of the vendor, Charles Sleight of London’s Royal Arcade, which pinned down the date of sale to the 1880s.

Dreweatts stick stand (15)

Dragon decoration on a 19th century stick stand sold by Charles Sleight, London, around 1880. Photo by Paul Harris

At the same time as the Dreweatts sale there was day one of the Woolley & Wallis two day sale in Salisbury. The first day always tends to be the most expensive at Woolleys and this was no exception. There were many lots in five figures but no sensations. The sale was dominated by telephone internet with only a dozen or so people in the room. This number was considerably larger the following day, a reflection of the more modest, attainable prices. However, if you had wanted the catalogue raisonne of the ceramic works in the Imperial Palace Museum, Beijing, you would not have got it for a few hundred pounds . . .  it was knocked down after competitive bidding at £11,000! Stands also fared particularly well: one lot with half a dozen rather attractive stands got £3,800. There were few bargains to be had, all in all.

For those who needed a rest from the seemingly relentless circuit, Thursday was a day of rest, so to speak. We took the opportunity to view the Friday sale at Duke’s in Dorchester. Amongst the fine things seen was a large, black jade Buddha which would actually fail to sell! We spotted a number of things, however, which we were able to secure bidding on the Internet the following day.

113 dukes Sold at Duke’s

Famille rose box with relief moulded figures and Qianlong mark to base but probably later, £1170 inclusive of premium


Two Imperial Daoguang bowls and their owners

351 woolley

Two particularly beautiful Daoguang (1821-50) bowls are coming up at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on May 17. They are delicately enamelled with four  roundels containing blossoming trees, divided by stylised lotus sprays and reserved on a pink sgraffito ground; the interiors are painted in underglaze blue with a central roundel containing a rabbit resting under a tree. They are each 14.8cm. in diameter.

Another pair of bowls of this design were shown at The Hong Kong Museum of Art exhibition The Wonders of the Painter’s Palette in 1984. There is an established provenance: they come from the collection of Colonel Geoffrey R Pridham CBE DSO (1872-1951) who was stationed in Peking around 1900. They have been sent for sale by the family and are estimated at £30,000-50,000.

And we just love this! Below is a very charming and telling photograph of the Colonel and his wife.

351 woolley photo

Colonel Geoffrey R Pridham (1872-1951) with his wife.


No sign of market collapse in recent auctions

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 ) and Chinese lots sold in Wales (Peter Francis Carmarthen ), 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. Dukes bamboo brush pot 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 dukes parcel-gilt double phoenix bronze scroll weight £51,240 Chinese parcel-gilt bronze ‘double phoenix’ scroll weight sold for £51,240 (incl.) dukes green jade horse A large green jade recumbent horse sold for £63,440 (incl.) dukes cloisonne miniature vase 46,000 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 (, 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.

222 woolley wallis  £74,000 basin washed its face at Woolley & Wallis

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.

Wooley & Wallis offer exquisite Qianlong clock

lot 62 woolley wallis clock

Salisbury auctioneers Woolley & Wallis are renowned for their bi-annual two day Asian art sales which take place in May and November. Although there are uncertainties surrounding the market for Asian and, specifically, Chinese art, the auction house is excited about one particular lot that comes up on November 17.

Lot 61 is described as ‘a fine and rare Chinese Imperial ormolu mounted striking gourd-shaped clock with swinging movement’. It is confidently reckoned to be Qianlong (1736-95) and is estimated at £200,000 – 300,000.

The provenance is the usual ‘property of a Gentleman’ and it is said to have formerly been in the possession of the Greek collector Dimitri Mavromattis. There are said to be only three examples of this type of Chinese clock in existence. The same clock, or another of the examples, have recently appeared at auction (Christie’s The Exceptional Sale July 5 2012, Lot 15, unsold, and Christie’s Hong Kong Magnificent Clocks for the Chinese Imperial Court from the Nezu Museum, May 27 2008, Lot 1501. It is an impressive 61cm in height.

lot 62 woolley wallis clock2

Asian art auctions crowd the calendar in November

gavel 1 Auction fever in November

For the Asian art buyer next month promises to be a taxing, wallet emptying experience . . . It is the busiest month ever for Asian art auctions. Starting November 3 with London’s Chiswick Auctions, the next 28 days of the month of November will see no fewer  than 20 major auctions of Asian art.

The sales range in size from Sotheby’s November 11 sale of Classical Chinese Furniture from a European Private Collection with just 28 lots of fine-looking huanghuali furniture, to Woolley & Wallis’s usual two day extravaganza on November 17 and 18. They range in location from Bonhams Edinburgh rooms to Dukes in Dorchester and Peter Francis in Carmarthen.

The plethora of sales raises problems of logistics for the avid follower of Chinese auction offerings. Even if you only peruse catalogues on line, you have to set aside at least a couple of days. As for attending all the sales, that is a practical impossibility given the distances involved and the fact that many sales compete with each other on the same day!

Things calm down, thankfully, at the end of the month, although you may care to take in, if you have the energy and the bank balance left, the Lyon & Turnbull auction at Crosshall Manor, St Neots, Cambridgeshire. L&T are again abandoning their elegant Edinburgh saleroom for a small barn in order to be within relatively easy reach of the London market and Heathrow airport.

The auction mania is effectively driven by other surrounding events. The prestigious Olympia Winter Art & Antiques Fair has a strong Chinese and Asian showing this year and starts with its private view on November 2. Asian Art in London starts on November 5 and runs on until the 14th. Both events bring thousands of Asian buyers to London.


      Lyon & Turnbull . . . at Crosshall Manor again     Photo Paul Harris

Listings for all the auctions can be found on our Auctions Nationwide page which is accessible from the slider bar on the Home Page of

10cm. bowl sold for half a million at Woolley & Wallis


A 10 cm. doucai lingzhi bowl: all-in price a shade under half a million pounds sterling

Last week’s Woolley & Wallis sale provided some very good results for the Salisbury auctioneers. A particularly successful result was achieved for a very small Chinese doucai lingzhi bowl estimated at £100,000 to £150,000 and which got £340,000 on the hammer. The end price was just short of half a million as the item was subject to 20% VAT, with premium (and VAT on premium) all to be added, bringing the ultimate cost to over £480,000.

Just 10.4 cm. in diameter, the bowl in question bore a six-character mark to base and was of the Yongzheng period (1723-35). Reputedly acquired in Hong Kong in the 1950s or ’60s, it was bought by a private Chinese collector.

Small Yongzheng cups and bowls are becoming quite a profitable speciality at Woolley & Wallis. Only last November a pair of doucai lingzhi wine cups were sold for a premium inclusive price of £378,200 in the Salisbury rooms.


Jasmine, a Chinese telephone bidder for Woolley & Wallis, pictured with one of the jardinières. The pair sold for £150,000 hammer.

Another high achiever at the sale was Lot 325 – a fine and rare pair of Chinese ImperiaI pale celadon jade models of jardinières. Qianlong, they were particularly rare and beautiful,the flaring bodies raised on three short feet, each jardinière issuing a gilt metal blossoming spray, one of prunus, the flowers in white jade, coral and enamel, the other peach, its flowers and leaves in agate and hardstone, with smaller petals in kingfisher feather, each with a small bird perched in its branches, its body adorned with kingfisher feathers. At the bases rockwork, flowering rohdea, narcissus, nandina (the holy bamboo) and lingzhi fungi are depicted in lapis lazuli, red coral, amber and spinach-green jade, the jardinières each raised on an elaborately carved reticulated five-legged zitan stand, and bearing paper labels for John Sparks Ltd. They were 32.5cm and 31cm respectively, 39cm and 37.5cm overall.

Estimated at £40,000-60,000, they went to £150,000 hammer. Thirty-five lots from the collection of Robert Frederick Hathaway (d. 1991) of Cape Town, South Africa, sold for £240,000 representing a 100% sold rate. The total for the 2-day sale was a very respectable £2.7m.

Rare and beautiful Imperial jade models to come up at Woolley & Wallis

There is a very beautiful (and also very rare) pair of Chinese Imperial pale celadon jade models of jardinières coming up at Woolley & Wallis’s Asian sale later in May. Said to be Qianlong, they would appear to be quite outstanding, they also have some provenance and are estimated at £40,000-60,000.


The flaring bodies are raised on three short feet, each jardinière issuing a gilt metal blossoming spray, one of prunus; the flowers in white jade, coral and enamel, the other peach, its flowers and leaves in agate and hardstone, with smaller petals in kingfisher feather, each with a small bird perched in its branches, its body adorned with kingfisher feathers.

At the bases rockwork, flowering rohdea, narcissus, nandina (the holy bamboo) and lingzhi fungi are depicted in lapis lazuli, red coral, amber and spinach-green jade, the jardinières each raised on an elaborately carved reticulated five-legged zitan stand, paper labels for John Sparks Ltd., 32.5cm and 31cm respectively, 39cm and 37.5cm overall.

Provenance: property of a distinguished private collection, purchased from John Sparks Ltd.

References: Classics of the Forbidden City, Architecture and Decoration of the Forbidden City, p.189, no.155 where cloisonné and jade examples in the Chu Xiu Gong palace can be seen; see also Imperial Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, p.249, no.287, where a pair of larger jade jardinières are illustrated; and The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Treasures of Imperial Court, pp.34-49 for further of related pieces.



Auctioneers look to Asia for expansion

opinion hl

It is being reported that the larger auction houses are looking to Asia for growth over the next few years. We reported, almost a month ago, that the substantial provincial house Woolley & Wallis attributed their success during 2014 to the twin effects of their Asian sales and their jewellery sales. Now, both Christie’s and Sotheby’s are identifying Asia, and particularly Greater China (the PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan) as the repository of their hopes in the near and medium future.

However, there is a slightly different cast to this analysis than that of recent times. Rather than looking to China and the Chinese recovering their heritage in the salerooms, there is a realisation that Chinese buyers are becoming more ambitious and wide ranging in their quest for art: they are becoming a regular, and vital, feature of Impressionist and Modern art sales, as well as jewellery and European furniture sales, especially in the area of highly decorated, extravagant pieces which appeal to the Asian palate.

The new President of Christie’s Mr Jussi Pylkkaenen is reported by The Antiques Trade Gazette as saying, ‘It’s not just the amount of money they are spending, but how they are spending it that matters. They are moving on from buying just Asian art to new categories.’

It is understood that Sotheby’s, soon to announce their 2014 results, will report that their Greater Chinese clients spent more than US$1bn. at their auctions. Quite apart from any national analysis, both houses seem to be saying that around 30% of their sales last year came from buyers new to them.

If Chinese buyers are moving on to European and international items will this diminish their interest in buying back their own art? This is what many experts are wondering. The key probably lies in the fact that the number of new buyers entering the market at auction generally is expanding dramatically. It seems doubtful if Europe or, even, America is providing such new entrants in vast numbers. We suspect that a large proportion of them are from so-called Greater China, including SE Asia.

This represents a newly affluent middle class with sums in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend at auction. This is a market which is set to expand dramatically and which will, in numbers if not in cash, overtake the more traditional millionaire (and now billionaire) sector of the population. They will be the unknown internet bidders hunched over their computers in bedrooms and boxrooms from Beijing to Baotou driving up the prices in the auction rooms of the UK.