Chinese Vase Sells for Record-Breaking $69.3 Million at UK Auction

An 18th century Chinese vase discovered when a house was cleared out was sold on Thursday at a London auction for the world record-breaking $69.3 million dollars.

This undated photo released by Bainbridge Auctioneers shows a Chinese vase which was sold for 43 million pounds ($69.3 million) in London Thursday, November 11, 2010. Photo: Bainbridge Auctioneers

The 18th-century Chinese porcelain vase – discovered when a house was cleared out – was sold on Thursday at a London auction for the world record-breaking $69.3 million (£43 million pounds).

Bainbridges, the auction house, said that the final price for the 16-inch vase — an imperially commissioned piece decorated with a fish motif — far exceeded the pre-auction estimated price, which was about 1.2 million pounds.

Both the auctioneers and the owners were stunned when Qianlong dynasty porcelain vase went for the highest price of any Chinese artwork sold at auction.

The elaborately decorated piece was put up for sale by a brother and sister who found it while clearing out their parents’ home in Pinner, north-west London after they recently died.

Bainbridge’s had estimated the 40cm high piece, which is decorated with a fish motif, would fetch between £800,000 and £1.2m ($1.9 million dollars.)

Helen Porter of the auction house said: “[The owners] had no idea what they had. They were hopeful but they didn’t dare believe until the hammer went down. When it did, the sister had to go out of the room and have a breath of fresh air.”

“We took it up for a day’s viewing in London and rented a room in the Arts Club on Dover Street where it attracted a lot of interest,” Helen said.

She continued: “The sale room was full of Chinese bidders. The bidding started at £500,000 and it reached the hammer price in half an hour. We were all absolutely shocked and thrilled. It’s the sort of sale you wait a whole career for.”

It was eventually sold to a Chinese bidder, said to be a Beijing-based agent, who sat on a gilded sofa at the front of the room but refused to comment after the sale.

Taxes and commissions boosted the buyer’s total bill to $83 million (£51.6 million pounds). The auctioneer said the piece was one of the most important Chinese vases to go on sale this century. It is understood it was sold to a private buyer from China.

It was described as ‘a piece of exquisite beauty and a supreme example of the skill of the ceramicist and decorator.’ The piece has a yellow painted trumpet neck and a double-walled construction, meaning an inner vase can be seen through the perforations of the main body.

The auctioneer’s website said the vase ‘would have resided, no doubt, in the Chinese royal palace and was most certainly fired in the imperial kilns. It is a masterpiece.’

Peter Bainbridge, director of the auction house, said: “I’m thrilled that a provincial auction room can show what it can do.  He said: “I’m also delighted to have handled such an astonishing work of art. I didn’t quite realise how exciting it was.”

The Bainbridges auction house — a small, independent company in the London suburb of Ruislip that runs auctions and valuations for people clearing their homes — said that the vase is of exceptional quality and that it knew the estimated price was “a bit conservative.”

The next item in the same lot, a piece of furniture, sold for only £2,000. Bainbridge’s previous highest sale was £100,000 for a Ming enamel piece two years ago. [via The Telegraph (UK) and Yahoo! News]

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