A Chinese jade carving of a water buffalo has helped Woolley and Wallis break several records this week. The 250 year old eight inch piece of jade is not only the highest single lot to be sold in Asian Art week, it is also the highest price ever for a jade carving at auction, and the most expensive lot ever sold outside of London. It tops the previous record held by the salerooms, which was for the Alexander Vase sold for £2.6m in 2005.
The buffalo came with a gilt stand, bearing a four character mark for the Emperor Qianlong, and is believed to have been made for him during his reign in the second half of the 18th century. It was bought by the 5th Earl of Yarborough in 1938, but put into storage for safe-keeping at the outbreak of the Second World War. The Earl's eldest daughter, Lady Diana Miller, inherited it at her father's death in 1948, but emigrated to southern Africa and never retrieved it from storage. On her return toEngland in 2005, the buffalo was discovered wrapped in newspapers in a box in a bank vault, where it had been hidden for 65 years.
The incredible price of £3.4m (£4.2m including buyer's premium) was paid by Eskenazi Ltd., one of the major Asian Art dealers, who was underbid on the telephone by a dealer inHong Kong. It contributed to a sale total of just over £5m - the highest ever achieved by Woolley and Wallis, and included a jade brushpot that sold for nearly half a million, a bi disc that made £290,000 and a private collection of early Chinese ceramics that made £107,000.