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The rare Qianlong period porcelain group that sold for $270,000 (£207,000) at Pook & Pook.

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The figural group, that stood just over 16in high and 12in wide (42 x 30cm), came from a collection in New Jersey with an estimate of just $1000-1500.

The vase shares some characteristics with the series of ‘Dutch’ figures after European prints made in the mid-18th century both for the export and as exotic entertainments for the Qing court.

However, this vase is from a little-known group of imperial pieces in which Westerners are shown paying homage to the Qianlong emperor. In this case the two merchants in tricorn hats and frock coats are carrying an outsize famille rose porcelain vase representing the might of the Qing.

A known pair

While this piece was unpublished, another example (seemingly its mirror image) is known in a private collection. In better condition it would have made much more. Both figures had repairs to hats, hands, and legs and one was lacking a foot.

While the vase was outwardly in better condition it may (like its pair) once have had a six-character seal mark to the base that was removed in the 20th century to allow for easy conversion to a lamp.

Bidding from the UK, the US and the Far East necessitated a dozen phone lines at the auction on January 17 with the winning bid ($329,400 with 22% buyer’s premium added) tendered by an unidentified institution in the US Mid West.