RARE CHINESE IMPERIAL VASE DISCOVERED IN AN ENGLISH KITCHEN & BOUGHT FOR A FEW HUNDRED POUNDS IN THE 1980S

RARE CHINESE IMPERIAL VASE DISCOVERED IN AN ENGLISH KITCHEN & BOUGHT FOR A FEW HUNDRED POUNDS IN THE 1980S
RARE CHINESE IMPERIAL VASE DISCOVERED IN AN ENGLISH KITCHEN & BOUGHT FOR A FEW HUNDRED POUNDS IN THE 1980S
RARE CHINESE IMPERIAL VASE DISCOVERED IN AN ENGLISH KITCHEN & BOUGHT FOR A FEW HUNDRED POUNDS IN THE 1980S
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  • SELLS FOR A STAGGERING £1.5 MILLION AT AUCTION
  • SETS A HOUSE RECORD FOR DREWEATTS AUCTIONEERS

A rare Chinese vase created in the 18th century for the court of the Qianlong Emperor and bought for a few hundred pounds in the 1980s, sold at Dreweatts auctioneers today for a staggering £1,449,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £100,000-£150,000. It was found in a kitchen in England, with its owner not realising its true value, as it had been inherited from his father. It was only when a visiting antiques specialist spotted it, that its true value and history was revealed.  

The colossal vase is two feet tall and bears the distinctive six-character mark of the Qianlong period (1736-1795) on its base. It is believed that its Imperial past and exceptional quality and craftsmanship, is what caused such spirited bidding today, with interest peaking from around the world. It was an international buyer on the telephone that won out in the end.

Commenting on the extraordinary result, Mark Newstead, Specialist Consultant at Dreweatts for Asian Ceramics and Works of Art, said: “We are delighted with this exceptional result! We saw widespread interest from China, Hong Kong, America and the UK, which resulted in very competitive bidding. The result shows the high demand for the finest porcelain produced in the world. A fabulous result and we are privileged to have sold this at Dreweatts.”

The vase is an extraordinary example of imperial Qianlong porcelain and is significant for its highly unusual enamelling techniques, with a striking palette of gold and silver against a vivid blue ground. The rich cobalt blue is often referred to as 'sacrificial blue', deriving from the use of vessels in this colour glaze being used during sacrifices at the Imperial Altar of Heaven. It is extremely rare to see blue vases painted in both gilding and slightly raised silver, thought to be due to the medium being difficult to control.        This vase therefore, is a testament to the skills and creativity of craftsmen working during the Qianlong period in exploring and perfecting enamelling techniques, to cater to the Emperor’s taste for the innovative and exotic. Such a vase would require at least three times of firing in the kiln, of the three different glazes and enamels. First at over 1200℃ for the cobalt blue, then at a lower temperature for the turquoise green on the interior of the vase, finally the gold and silver enamels in a special kiln designed for enamels.

The name of this shape of vase in Chinese is ‘Tianqiuping’, meaning ‘heavenly globe vase’, which alludes to Chinese iconography, where heaven is represented as a sphere. This explains the large globular shape of the vase, which references heaven. 

The exceptional quality, monumental size, and imposing presence of this vase, as well as its fine and auspicious decoration, would have rendered it suitable for prominent display in one of the halls of the Qing palace. Thrillingly no other porcelain decorated with the same subject in gold and silver appears to have ever been documented.

As a devout Buddhist the Qianlong Emperor was also a follower of Daoism with a wish for longevity. This desire is expressed in the sliver cranes on the vase, which hold an emblem for each of the eight immortals associated with Daoism including: a flower basket, flute, fan and castanets on the vase’s body. The flying cranes and bat also carry auspicious messages for longevity and prosperity. This spectacular vase bears a six-character mark of the Qianlong period (1736-1795)