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The bids placed by mainland Chinese collectors to secure the two large, 221/2in (58cm) high, restored Qianlong mark and period mille-fleurs double gourd vases shown right in the Chinese sale at Christie’s King Street on November 11 offered an interesting insight into just how much restoration buyers now consider acceptable.

The first vase had old restoration to the neck, some rim chips and a few enamel flakes around the base. It was estimated at £30,000-50,000. The second vase had been dropped, broken and restored in several places to the body and had a horizontal crack encircling the foot ring. It sported a £20,000-30,000 guideline.

Despite damage, both vases represented a tour de force of the 18th century potter’s technical and artistic ability to fire such large vessels and to conceive and successfully enamel such intricate designs. Consigned from the same private source, they were not a pair but had probably been matched when they were in the Fonthill collection of Asian Art amassed by Alfred Morrison (the son of a wealthy textile magnate) in the mid 19th century.

Bidding for the first, less damaged vase was brisk up until the £120,000 mark, with Chak & Co contesting the entry against other Chinese interest.

After they dropped out it became a battle between a Chinese collector in the room and a telephone buyer. The mainland collector secured it for £320,000.

In stark contrast, the second vase sold on the telephone to a mainland Chinese collector for £32,000.