A Qianlong three-colour lacquer throne – £5.2m at Christie’s.

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The 3ft 10in (1.15m) wide nine-dragon throne, similar in design, quality and construction to another in the Palace Museum, merited a catalogue of its own at Christie’s on May 14 and an £800,000-1.2m estimate.

It was pursued to £5.2m (£6.1m with premium). Perhaps 150 coats of lacquer were applied, then carved, to achieve the three-colour effect that was typically reserved for the imperial household.

It came for sale from a private Asian collection having been acquired in Hong Kong in 1997. Christie’s sold an additional £5.8m of Chinese art on the same day.

Strength at Bonhams

With four Asian art week sales in London – Fine Chinese Art, Fine Japanese Art, the Robert Huthart Collection of Uwami Netsuke and Asian Art in Knightsbridge – Bonhams enjoyed some of the strongest selling rates of a selective series and a total of £11.3m.

Two lots in the £7.2m sale of Chinese art on May 16 achieved sums way beyond expectations. Leading proceedings at £920,000 (estimate £40,000- 60,000) was a rare late 16th or early 17th century huanghuali rectangular side table with ‘giant’s arm’ braces to the frame that eliminated the need for the more commonly seen humpback stretchers. It came from a British private collection formed in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Sold at £720,000, more than 70 times the low estimate, was an 8in (20cm) green-enamelled incised ‘dragon’ dish with a Chenghua (1464-87) six-character mark that was deemed of the period. Visibly damaged, it came for sale by descent from a collection formed in the 1920s.

Sotheby’s May 15 Chinese sale totalled a more modest £3.1m and did not overshadow the Japanese art catalogue that had posted £2.3m the previous day. It was topped by one of the large-format pictorial lacquer plaques made by Shibata Zeshin in his latter years.


Lacquer panel by Shibata Zeshin dated 1888 – £450,000 at Sotheby’s.

The 3ft 4in (1.06m) wide panel decorated with spiny lobsters on a rocky outcrop was signed Gyoen Hachijuni O Koma Zeshin (an old man in his 82nd year, Kona Zeshin) and dated 1888. The hammer price was £450,000.

Regional UK Asian art sales continue this week.