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Imperial lantern vase makes £625,000 in Dorchester

15 February 2010Written by ATG Reporter

DORCHESTER saleroom Duke's achieved the highest price for a UK regional auctioneer so far this year when this Qianlong mark and period vase sold at £625,000 on February 11.

The so-called 'lantern' vase is decorated in underglaze blue and copper red with a continuous mountainous landscape and incised to the clay with passages of Anhua, visible only when held to the light.

The base carries a Qianlong (1735-1795) seal mark, but the body is also impressed with the emperor's characters at the point of the tallest mountain peak. Such an impressive vase - it measured 18 1/2in (47cm) high - was probably manufactured in the imperial kilns under the direction of Tang Ying during the early years of Qianlong's reign c.1740.

The painterly manner in which the landscape is rendered is reminiscent of the work of Wang Hui (1632-1717) and may be derived from his masterwork, the series of 12 monumental scrolls depicting the Emperor Kangxi's Southern Inspection Tour of 1689.

Duke's vendor, from the Isle of Purbeck, believed it was once part of the furnishings of Embley Park, Hampshire, the home of Florence Nightingale. But according to the auctioneers, it had latterly been used as an umbrella stand and had sustained the Y-shaped haircrack that undoubtedly prevented a seven-figure sum.

Nevertheless, with Duke's predicting a price in excess of £500,000 in the immediate run-up to the sale, bids were taken from dealers from London and Hong Kong on five phone lines and others from Mainland China in the room. The buyer was on the telephone.

The price is the second highest achieved by the Dorset saleroom, overshadowed only by the £1.7m (plus 17.5 per cent premium) bid in April 2007 for two rediscovered panels of Dominican saints from Fra Angelico's celebrated 1438-40 high altarpiece for the Church of San Marco in Florence.

By Roland Arkell

Duke's buyer's premium is 19.5 per cent.

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