Property of a Queen

18th May 2022

An Imperial jade vase that belonged to one of the last queens of Yugoslavia has sold at auction in Salisbury for £312,500.

Queen Maria of Yugoslavia ruled alongside her husband, Alexander I, until his assassination in 1934, and was the mother of the last reigning Yugoslavian monarch, Peter II.

The vase (lot 415), which bears a collection label for Queen Maria, was purchased from London dealer, Spink and Son in 1963 for a sum of £1,100 (around £17,000 today) by an English collector, Gordon Quance. It appeared on the open market with Woolley and Wallis for the first time in almost 60 years and rapidly sailed past its pre-sale estimate, selling to a buyer in mainland China.

Prior to its time in the possession of European royalty, the vase had been made in the 18th century for the Qianlong Emperor, and was inscribed with a poem that he wrote in 1785.

“The market for jades made for the Chinese Imperial Court remains strong, especially in the Far East,” said Head of Asian Art, John Axford. “Collectors are especially keen on items that bear Imperial marks (as this does) but also appreciate a long-standing European provenance, as it gives the object a provable history and authenticity. The fact that this is such an illustrious provenance can only have helped it.”

Maria was a popular queen who did a lot for charity during her reign and, after settling in England during the 1940s, could regularly be seen working on her farm in Kent. On her death in 1961 she was buried at Frogmore, by Windsor Castle, but her remains were moved to Serbia in 2013. 

The vase was one of a number of jade pieces from the Quance collection that exceeded expectations during the Fine Chinese Art sale on 17th May. A spinach-green jade vase from the same period (lot 410) realised £40,000, while a pale celadon jade carving of a Buddhist lion dog (lot 414) fetched £62,500. A jade incense burner and cover (lot 413), also purchased from Spink & Son, sold for £31,250.

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