The major houses’ latest New York Asian series highlighted the dominance of the Chinese art market.
After the auctions from September 13 to 15, Christie's New York reported a 40 per cent year-on-year growth in Chinese sales and trounced their rivals with a trio of Chinese sales that fetched $50m (£32m).
Overall, Christie's (25/20/12% buyer's premium) six Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian and South East Asian auctions racked up a $62.55m (£40m) hammer total while Sotheby's (25/20/12% buyer's premium) two Chinese sales contributed $23.92m (£15.3m) to an overall three-auction Asian series hammer tally of $25.76m (£16.47m).
But it was Freeman's (25/20/12% buyer's premium) Fine and Decorative Asian Art auction in Philadephia on September 9 that boasted the month's most expensive Asian work of art: the $3.1m (£1.98m) Imperial Qianlong (1736-95) double dragon jade seal pictured here - an in-house record.
Freeman's specialist Richard Cervantes said the Philadelphia vendor probably paid around $1000 for it when he purchased it back in the 1970s in Palm Beach.
The 2¼in by 22/3in (6cm x 7cm) seal translates Treasure of concern over phenomena at eighty and is the latest in a string of multi-million dollar seals made for the emperor's 80th birthday to appear on the market in the last few years.
Mr Cervantes cautiously catalogued the late consignment as 'Imperial style', dating it to the Qing dynasty and gave it an attractive $30,000-50,000 estimate.
On the day, ten telephone buyers and several room bidders competed for it, with a Chinese man on a mobile phone placing the winning bid. The 845-lot sale grossed $6.8m (£4.35m) excluding premium.
Back in New York, although Christie's and Sotheby's offered fewer high calibre Chinese works of art than at their record-breaking March series, Asian and Western competition ensured the auctions fielded countless punchy prices for reasonably estimated jade, huanghuali and zitan furniture and scholars' works of art with provenance.
For example, in Christie's $10.86m (£6.95m) sale on September 15, A Connoisseur's Vision: Property from the Xu Hanqing Collection, an 18th century jade melon measuring 33/8in (9cm) trumped its $150,000 upper estimate, selling to a private Asian buyer at $1.2m (£767,000).
And at Sotheby's various-owner outing on September 14, a 17th century huanghuali table from the estate of Hope and Lewis Andrews sailed past its $120,000 upper guide, selling to an Asian dealer at $600,000 (£384,000).
London dealers Eskenazi secured Sotheby's highlight: an $850,000 (£544,000) gilt-bronze stele of Buddha dated 471AD. Eskenazi, Littleton and Hennessy Asian Art, Knapton and Rasti Asian Art were among the few London dealers in attendance.
Asian buying dominated, with around 80 per cent of lots at Christie's and Sotheby's selling to buyers from Greater China. Far and away the series' highest grossing auction was Christie's $31.933m (£20.42m) Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on September 15-16, topped by a $2.3m (£1.47m) Imperial Qianlong moonflask bought by an Asian dealer.
In the same sale, the ten-times-estimate price needed to secure a $500,000 (£320,000) pair of blue and white cong vases with an apocryphal Hongxian (1915/16) mark underscored the trend that prices are on the rise for quality or signed Republican porcelain.
Sotheby's $5.31m (£3.4m) Fine Classical Chinese Paintings auction on September 13 was the first in this category for the firm in New York for a decade. It was also the week's most enthusiastically received catalogue in terms of take-up, with an 88 per cent selling rate for its 81 lots.
New York used to be a centre for Chinese painting and one fifth of entries sold to US buyers. The remainder were largely secured by Asian dealers and collectors. A $650,000 (£426,000) signed calligraphic album by Dong Qichang (1556-1636) bought by an Asian buyer topped proceedings.
Bonhams' (25/20/12% buyer's premium) had less in the way of Chinese art, with two Asian sales that fetched a combined hammer total of $1.82m (£1.16m). <bbbbbbbbbbbbbbb>Doyle's (25/20/12% buyer's premium) Asian sale on September 12 posted a $2.26m (£1.45m) hammer total.
Christie's $3.08m (£1.97m) Japanese and Korean Art sale on September 14 reported a selective 59 per cent selling rate by lot with the Korean ceramic section fielding many casualties. An oil on canvas, Returning from the market, by Korea's celebrated Park Sookeun (1914-65) was the star turn at $600,000 (£384,000).
High-profile Japanese failures included four of the five Sharaku (act.1794/95) prints, but a 108-lot collection of inro and lacquer from the estate of Catherine Halff Edson was well received.
It was headlined by a $135,000 (£86,300) two-case lacquer inro from the Edo period signed by the early 19th century master Koma Kansai. It had passed through the celebrated collections of W.L. Behrens and Charles A. Greenfield among others.
At the heart of Christie's South Asian, Modern and Contemporary art sale on September 13 were 13 paintings by the late Maqbool Fida Husain (1915-2011) that made up over half of the overall $6.06m (£3.87m) hammer total.
By Kate Hunt