Chinese jades make millions

19th November 2010

Despite the highly publicised record-breaking Chinese vase sold in Surrey last week, it appears the Chinese are still not short on funds. A full saleroom and fifteen busy telephone lines produced another record sale for Woolley and Wallis this week, with a final sale total of £10.2m.

The same sale in May totalled £8.8m and was, at the time, the highest grossing sale for any regional auction house, so the Salisbury saleroom was delighted to have beaten its own record so soon. The total was greatly helped by the sale of four Imperial Chinese jade carvings from Crichel House in Dorset, including the top lot of a white jade deer at a premium inclusive £3,900,000, and a massive jade brushwasher at £2,400,000. Both lots sold to mainland China, where the buying power is proving far greater than any Western counterpart.

The Crichel jades, together with several other of the top lots, were exhibited in a London gallery as part of Asian Art London the week prior to the sale, and drew huge attention from Chinese and English dealers alike. The Salisbury view likewise was well attended and the saleroom brought in three Mandarin speakers to help answer questions at the view and assist with telephone bidding to Hong Kong and mainland China.

Other key lots included a soapstone brushwasher at £270,000 which had an unusual mark signifying Qianlong (an important 18th century emperor). The style of the mark allegedly indicated that the piece had been made for Qianlong’s personal enjoyment and not just for exhibition in one of his many palaces. This connection made it an important piece and buyers were prepared to go well above the conservative £20,000 – 40,000 estimate.

Proof of the extraordinary growth of the market came with a pair of champlevé and gilt bronze boxes and covers which had featured in a sale in Hong Kong some years previously and failed to sell. Entered here with a similar estimate of £35,000 - 40,000 they exceeded all expectations to sell for £220,000.

Asian Art specialist John Axford was amazed to have broken his sale record again so quickly. “We have been extremely fortunate to have such wonderful pieces consigned to us for sale, and I’m very grateful to the directors of Braganza Investments Ltd who had faith enough to sell the jades from Crichel House outside of London. I hope that we’ve proved that Salisbury can be just as much a centre for Asian Art as London or any other international city can be.”

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