Twenty-nine lots of porcelain from the Fiorentini Collection were sold July 2 by Bonhams Edinburgh for a well above estimate £105,000, inclusive of 25% premium. They were offered for sale by the executors of the estate of Ruth Fiorentini. She, and her late husband, ran an advertising agency in the West End of London with Cartier among their A List clients.
They spent much of their spare time attending auctions from the post-war period through to the 1980s. Chinese porcelain gradually became their main interest. Their interest led to a close friendship with the well known collector E G Kostalany and they purchased a number of pieces from him. One of the attractive purchases from him, in March 1981, was a fine famille verte brushpot (bitong) which bears labels from previous owners, including the City of Manchester Art Gallery (illustrated below). It went for a very respectable hammer price of £5,500 (estimate £3-5,000)..
There were also a number of good blanc-de-chine pieces, most also from Kostolany, including a tripod incense burner similar to one in the Percival David foundation of Chinese Art (no. 424). It achieved on the hammer £4,800 (estimate £1,200-500).
However, the highest price in the sale was achieved by a very pretty, unassuming, finely potted, lobed small saucer dish which bore a Yongzheng mark to the base and featured a shaped lotus flower to the interior. Against an estimate of £600-800, it made a premium inclusive £13,750.
The second highest price of £11,250 went to a sang-de-boeuf bowl estimated at £2,000-3,000. It opened on a commission bid at £5,000.
Lot 129 A sang-de-boeuf glazed bowl with Quianlong seal mark. Diameter 15cm.
The prices set the dealers in the room tut-tutting. One prominent London dealer had great difficulty getting in amongst the competition from telephone and internet. An Edinburgh Asian dealer observed, “Most of these pieces, if they hadn’t had the cachet of the Fiorentini Collection, would probably have sold here for half the price.”
The thirtieth lot, a rather modest collection of a couple of dozen of Ruth Fiorentini’s reference books, with some wooden stands thrown in, got a surprising £1,375, inclusive of premium.