1. The ‘Jade king of Singapore’s’ dish – £16,000
The Singaporean banker, entrepreneur and investor Quek Kiok Lee (1921-2018) said he was ‘born to be a collector’. Chinese works of art were his passion for close to 70 years.
In that time the so-called ‘Jade king of Singapore’ amassed vast holdings of ceramics, metalwork, hardstone carvings and scholar’s objects and became both a founder of the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society (SEACS) and acquisitions adviser on Chinese antiquities for the University of Singapore.
Elements of his collection were exhibited in the 1970 and 80s at the National Museum of Singapore.
Various pieces from the Quek collection have been offered in Hong Kong and London in recent years. However, Singapore auction house Hotlotz was charged with the dispersal of its considerable residual contents on Quek’s home soil.
Following an auction of 250 lots in December 2019, a second two-day timed online sale of works of art from the collection was held across the weekend of August 28-29.
The top lot was a 7in (18cm) Southern Song or Yuan period Qingbai dish that, pitched at Sin$500-800, sold at Sin$29,000 (£16,000).
The moulded decoration of prunus and a crescent moon in clouds appears to have been popular during the Southern Song and may allude to a line from a poem by Chen Yuyi (1090-1139), which invokes “the shadows of prunus blossoms by moonlight”. According to Quek’s extensive note-keeping this piece had been bought in 1976 from the Moongate, dealership in Singapore for Sin$1200.
2. Royal presentation photo frames – £9500
This pair of 12in (30cm) silver photograph frames are royal presentation pieces: each has the monogram ER and GR and includes portrait photographs signed Elizabeth R and George R VI and dated 1940.
The photos were taken by Dorothy Wilding (1893-1976), whose images of the British royal family were used on the 1937 Coronation issue stamp. At Gorringe’s in Lewes on September 1 the frames (now both minus their easel supports) were estimated at £500-800 but sold to a bidder via thesaleroom.com at £9500.
3. 19th century sewing box – £2200
Boxes such as these, fashioned and painted as cottages, are among the most desirable of all 19th century caddies and sewing boxes.
Some are associated with Tonbridge and the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells – centres for the manufacture of wooden souvenirs into the Edwardian era.
This box, painted as a thatched cottage came for sale at Rendells of Ashburton on August 27. A long queue of dealers would have loved to buy it somewhere close to its £20-30 estimate, but the hammer price was £2200.
4. Collection box with Beatles connection – £1700
A Beatles themed sale held by Cato Crane Liverpool on August 29 included architectural souvenirs from St Peters Church in Woolton. It was here on the evening of Saturday, July 6, 1957 that, while waiting to play at the church hall dance, John Lennon and the other members of the Quarrymen skiffle group were first introduced to the young Paul McCartney.
John later commented, “that was the day, the day I met Paul that it started moving”.
St Peters has other Beatles connections. In the churchyard are the graves of Eleanor Rigby (as featured in the song from the 1966 Revolver album) and of George Toogood Smith (Lennon’s uncle who brought him his first musical instrument, a harmonica). Lennon’s aunt Mimi was a regular member of the congregation.
Offered for sale with modest estimates were an oak collection box, in use at the church from 1929, a block of the wooden floor from the church hall and four pieces of coloured stained glass from a church hall window. They sold at prices of £1700, £800 and £1200 respectively.
5. Qianlong porcelain bowl – £7600
This 9in (23cm) Qing blue and white porcelain bowl decorated in underglaze blue with squirrels in fruiting bears a Qianlong (1736-1795) six-character seal mark and is probably of the period.
The ‘squirrel and grapes’ motif carries an auspicious meaning. In Chinese, the squirrel is called a songshu (pine mouse) and grapes are called putao. Since the pine is a symbol of longevity, and the tao in putao has the same sound as the word for peach (emblem of longevity), the motif brings with it the wish for a long life. In addition, as grapes have many seeds, and squirrels reproduce in great numbers, the motif also represents the wish for many offspring.
Similar 18th century ‘squirrel and grapes’ bowls have been offered on the international market but this bowl, with a hairline crack, came for sale at Spicers in Driffield on August 28 with an estimate of just £60-80.
The hammer price was £7300.