Broken 18th century Chinese vase sells for £200,000 at Derbyshire auction house

An antique Chinese vase stunned a Derbyshire auction house this month as it sold for £200,000 despite being held together by glue.
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The copper-red and underglaze blue deer lantern vase, dated to the 18th century reign of the Qianlong Emperor, was expected to fetch up to £25,000 due to its badly damaged condition.

But as the bidding began at Hansons’ fine art auction on December 7, the price soared thanks to fierce competition from phone and online bidders.

Charles Hanson, owner of the Etwall auctioneers, said: “I fully expected this vase to excel, despite the cracks and repairs. It was bursting with Eastern promise and items from this period are extremely sought after.

Auctioneer Charles Hanson found the vase at a house in Leicestershire.Auctioneer Charles Hanson found the vase at a house in Leicestershire.
Auctioneer Charles Hanson found the vase at a house in Leicestershire.

“It was languishing under a table in a living room. I spotted it during a routine house visit I undertook in Leicestershire to assess a range of antiques. In good condition its auction estimate would have been in the region of £600,000 to £700,000.”

The 18 inch tall pot is covered in cracks and visible repairs, but the imperial seal it carries was enough to pique the interest of the private buyer in China who eventually won the bidding.

Featuring contrasting shades of cobalt blue, the lantern-shape vase is decorated with a herd of deer against a mountainous landscape with pine trees and rocks, as cranes and clouds pass overhead.

What made its value exceptional was the use of copper red in the decoration.

Charles said: “The Chinese are extremely proud of their artistic heritage and the advanced skills their ancestors perfected centuries ago. Consequently, finds like this often spark strong bidding from the Far East as wealthy collectors like to repatriate items to their homeland.

“The vase was probably manufactured in the imperial kilns under the direction of Tang Ying during the early years of Qianlong’s reign, circa 1740, which would make it nearly 300 years old.

He added: “Even though the vase had been smashed at a hunting party in the 1950s, it still displayed exceptional artistry, which demonstrates both the virtuosity of the painter and the skill of the kiln master.

“ A similar pair of vases were exhibited at the Minneapolis Museum of Art in America in 2004.”

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