The 15in (39cm) high bottle form vase, with a six-character Yongzheng (1722-35) mark to the base, featured in a timed sale held by Hotlotz from April 18 to May 3. The price is a house record for Hotlotz and a record for any lot sold on thesaleroom.com.
The finely painted vase is decorated with a striking design of nine dragons among stylised clouds. It is thought to be closely related to another ‘mark and period’ vase of the same size and similar (two-dragon) decoration that took a house record £2.6m at Tennants of Leyburn in 2012 and was later resold by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in 2015 for a premium-inclusive HK$75.8m (around £7.5m).
At the time it was said that no other Yongzheng example of this elegant slender form appeared to have been published - although the type is more common in pieces from the subsequent Qianlong period.
The vase that sold this week (previewed in ATG issue 2440) was in good condition and came with a 1950s provenance. It was offered for consignment by descent from the family of the Sri Lankan statesman Sir Oliver Goonetilleke (1892-1978). Having served as a key figure in the gradual independence of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from Britain, he became the third governor-general of Ceylon from 1954-1962. According to a letter from form the vendor, the vase was gifted by Zhou Enlai (1898-1976), premier of The People's Republic of China, while visiting Sri Lanka c.1956-57.
At auction the vase - with an estimate of Sin$1000-2000 designed to attract as much interest as possible - found many admirers, culminating in a very busy last two and a half hours of bidding which at the final moments of the sale reached Sin$5.5m (£3.1m) - around Sin$6.9m (£3.9m) including the 25% buyer’s premium.
“We always hoped the vase would perform well given the provenance and quality of painting. We included videos and an extensive suite of photos in the online catalogue and we received many enquiries as soon as it went live on thesaleroom.com,” said Matthew Elton, managing director Hotlotz. “More than a dozen bidders competed and we are thrilled with the final price.”