The Asian auction held by Nagel (33% buyer’s premium) in Stuttgart on May 20 and May 21 saw a larger influx of mainland Chinese dealers than for their last major Asian sale in November despite the fact that until two days before the auction the German government had placed a moratorium on visa applications in response to the SARS outbreak.
“Two days prior to the sale we had 35 visa applications from mainland Chinese,” said Michael Trautmann. “The main things they were interested in were the porcelain and the paintings.”
However, the mainland Chinese did not restrict their buying to these fields and outbid a Hong Kong buyer for the top lot, a pair of elaborately carved Qing dynasty zitan cabinets, pictured left, for €110,000 ( executed in an 18th century style, Michael Trautmann felt they dated to the 1890s and were made by a Shanghai company that specialised in reproduction furniture.
Consigned from the south of France, these Chinese-taste cabinets had cloisonné mounts and were decorated to the interior with a gilt design of landscapes on black lacquer.
If the quality of the carving and the zitan wood made this a must-have for the mainland Chinese, it was the resurgence of interest from mainland Chinese collectors in blue and white transitional ware that fuelled demand for the well painted – albeit damaged – 17th century rouleau vase in this sale. “There are three or four very rich Chinese collectors that are looking for transitional ware,” said Michael Trautmann.
The Chongzhen (1628-1644) vase was decorated with a scene of Emperor Yao with the cowherd Xu You. Despite restoration to the rim and a small crack, it fetched €11,000 (£4330).
Other mainland Chinese purchases included a Ming dynasty gilt bronze sculpture of Guanyin. It had been unsold at Christie’s New York, September 2002, with an estimate of $2000-3000 but here fetched €10,000 (£7520) while a blue and white teapot and cover from the Daoguang period, dated 1849 (purchased by the vendor at Christie’s, Hong Kong, 1996, for around the €15,000 estimate it received here), made €80,000 (£60,150) despite a polished rim.
About 90 per cent of a 170-lot private collection of 20th century Chinese paintings sold to Asian buyers from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
A mainland Chinese dealer bought the most expensive painting: a hanging scroll by Shi Lu (1918-1982), Roses in Moonlight, ink on paper, that fetched €8500 (£6390).
One of the most contested entries was a doucai bowl, Yongzheng mark and period (1723-35). Although it had two hairline cracks, its low €900 (£675) estimate attracted 16 telephone bids as well as interest in the room. It sold to a Hong Kong dealer for €28,000 (£21,050).
The 2496-lot sale was 72 per cent sold by lot and totalled €2,428,000 (£1,825,565).
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