Transitional period blue and white sleeve vase – £46,000 at Semley Auctions.

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Morland, who served in the Grenadier Guards before becoming a diplomat, bought mainly Qing blue and white wares from a range of dealers in the 1970s-80s. Many of the items dispersed on November 7 were sold complete with original receipts.

A Transitional period blue and white sleeve vase, 10in (25cm) high, decorated with a continuous scene of a hunting party in mountainous landscape between incised anhua bands, had a label for London dealership Marchant. It was purchased there on July 15, 1980 for £4500. Estimated at £10,000-15,000, it sold at Semley for £46,000.

It was during the so-called Transitional period, the era of protracted civil war that marked the transition from Ming to Qing, that the centuries-old system of court-sponsored porcelain manufacture at Jingdezhen collapsed. In its place came new customers – the literati, the merchant class and foreign trading companies from Europe and Japan – and new wares catering to their tastes.

Among the most recognisable products are these tall cylindrical vessels freely decorated with extravagant landscapes or scenes from popular literature. As indicated by the price paid for this piece 40 years ago, they were once considered the epitome of old European collecting taste.

The dragon and the phoenix


Yongzheng blue and white ‘dragon and phoenix’ bowls – £280,000 at Semley Auctions.

The collection was topped by a near pair of Yongzheng (1723-35) mark and period ‘dragon and phoenix’ bowls sold to an online bidder at £280,000 – 10 times the top estimate. Each 6¼in (16cm) diameter, of moulded quatre-lobed form, one bowl has two panels of imperial five-clawed dragons, the other three-clawed beasts. Around the rim inside and outside is a border of prunus.

The decoration, representing good fortune and happiness, is very scarce in blue and white, although another bowl of this type formed part of the Julia C Gulland Gift to the Victoria and Albert Museum.