Military service pays off

27th July 2021

Four porcelain plaques that were bought by a young man on military service during the 1960s have sold at auction at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury for £500,000.

Colonel Tim Van-Rees was on military service in Hong Kong in 1968 when he purchased the four plaques which had been painted by Wang Qi (lot 9) – one of the leading artists on porcelain during the first decades of the 20th century. When informed of the sale price of his plaques he told Woolley and Wallis’s Chairman, John Axford, “I suppose that has made my military service worthwhile!”

Each plaque is finely painted with a figure from Chinese history and mythology, including the famous 8th century poet, Li Bai, who is often referred to as The Drunken Poet. This is likely to have been a popular figure with Wang Qi who would meet with seven other artist friends on the 15th of each month to drink wine and exchange artistic views.

“Wang Qi is now the biggest name among collectors of Chinese porcelain from the Republic period,” explained John Axford, “and he is one of the most sought-after artists of his time.”

Bidding on the four plaques opened at £25,000 on 27th July and rapidly exceeded the top estimate of £50,000. Bidding rose quickly via the bank of eager telephone bidders and the hammer finally came down at £400,000 – making a total of £500,000 with buyer’s premium. The successful buyer is a Chinese American collector.

Another lot from the Republic period which outperformed expectations was a miniature Chinese gourd-shaped vase painted in famille rose enamels. Standing a mere 10cm high, the vase came from a private collection in Yorkshire which had been amassed some 40 years ago. Proving that size isn’t everything, it finally sold for a premium-inclusive £237,500.


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