You have 2 more free articles remaining

The celadon-glazed Yongzheng (1722-35) mark and period vase came for sale at Mallams in Cheltenham from the family of Charles George, a knowledgeable mid-20th century collector who died in 1966.

Meticulously documenting his purchases in a handwritten inventory, George recorded the inclusion of this vase in the 1947 Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition of celadon wares prepared by founder member and expert on Chinese glazes Arthur L Hetherington. In 1952 he estimated it to be worth between £12-15 (around £400 in today’s money).

Yongzheng vase at Mallams

Charles George's handwritten inventory recording the inclusion of the vase in the 1947 Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition and giving an estimated value of £12-15.

During Yongzheng’s 13-year reign, the emperor personally supervised the production of a profusion of new shapes and colours at the ceramic kilns at Jingdezhen – many inspired by ancient ceramics preserved in the imperial collection.

The form of this 9½in (23.5cm) vase, moulded to the base with bands of chrysanthemum petals and to the neck with ribs in imitation of bamboo, is inspired by a Longquan prototype from the Southern Song period.

The foot bears a six-character Yongzheng mark painted in blue in zhuanshu script.

It still retains the Oriental Ceramic Society label and the exhibit number 130 to its base – a history that doubled as an insurance policy against the modern fakes blighting the market.

Charles George’s £12 vase, estimated at £20,000-30,000, attracted 13 phone bidders at the auction on April 27 but both the buyer and the underbidder were in the room. As bidding was opened, one member of the audience shouted out “500”.

The auctioneer took £500 before the bidder yelled “no, £500,000”. The successful purchaser was a London and Hong Kong gallery.

Mallams’ director, Robin Fisher, said: “It is the scarcity of quality, genuine works with a solid provenance that ensured this vase realised the highest price we have achieved for any item.”

The buyer’s premium was 20%.