Friday - 25 July 2014

Fit for an emperor at £355,000

13 June 2014Written by Roland Arkell

The most highly regarded piece of Chinese porcelain offered during the recent round of Asian sales was seen in Edinburgh where Lyon & Turnbull sold this blue and white dragon charger for £355,000.

It came for sale from a private collection in Dumfriesshire. The client's uncle, a Japanese prisoner-of-war, had lived and worked in Japan after disarmament until moving to a large house in Yorkshire and later to Scotland in the 1950s.

Although catalogued as 19th or 20th century and estimated at £3000-5000 at the sale on June 4, this 20in (51cm) dish with a Qianlong mark, was thought by at least some of the eight phone bidders to be of the period.

The Yongzheng (1723-35) and Qianlong (1736-95) emperors were keen collectors and scholars and much amused by the classic blue and white wares of the Ming dynasty that were often copied.  The decoration here is centred by a coiling five-toed dragon encircling a flaming pearl.

The buyer contributing more than a third of a £1m sale total was from Malaysia.

Dragon Robe

Also at the Lyon & Turnbull sale was a woman's summer dragon robe or long pao, embroidered in gold and silver. It was entered for auction by the great-granddaughter-in-law of the Glasgow shipping magnate and art collector Leonard Gow (1859-1936).

Under the strictly regulated code established under Qianlong, only the emperor could wear a robe displaying all 12 of the ancient symbols of authority. Each symbol had a specific meaning and when appearing together represented the emperor's authority and unquestionable sovereignty.

However, this strict adherence to custom relaxed towards the end of the Qing dynasty, and it is known that the Empress Dowager Cixi, who named herself regent and essentially ruled China during the Tongzhi and Guangxu Emperor's reigns, wore robes bearing all 12 symbols.

It is thought this long pao was designed for her use.

The auctioneers took it to the US - promoting it alongside a sale at 'sister' saleroom Freeman's - and it was a client who had seen it on display in Philadelphia who bought it at £60,000 (estimate £15,000-25,000).

"I am absolutely thrilled to hear the result," said the vendor. "I have had it hanging in my wardrobe for 40 years, just managing to stop the children chopping it up or wearing it as fancy dress. At Christmas, when I heard that Lyon & Turnbull had sold a similar robe, it inspired me to get in touch and I am so glad I did."

This week's ATG printed newspaper features a round-up of the latest Asian art sales.

 

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