14-05-02-2140NE01B Sworders Stansted Mountfitchet.jpg
The Chinese calligrapher’s brush pot which took £150,000 at Sworders.

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The pot, being held in the picture below by Yexue Li, who works in Sworders' Asian art department, is made from a single block of zitan - the rare hardwood largely reserved for use in the Qing Imperial household.

It is intricately carved with dozens of figures in the popular 'hundred boys' subject, a highly auspicious theme in Chinese art intended to inspire the creation of a large and joyous family.

The piece, apparently used as a doorstop in a Hertfordshire cottage for over 40 years, was estimated at £20,000-30,000 for the sale on April 29, but auctioneer and managing director Guy Schooling said it soon became clear that interest would see it exceed this sum.

The vendor was present at the auction rooms (choosing to watch online from the office, rather than in the saleroom itself) to see it sell to a Chinese buyer in the room at £150,000.

Mr Schooling  described it as "a life-changing sum for the seller".

The buyer's premium was 20%.