The 15in (39cm) high bottle form vase, with an underglaze blue 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 via online marketplace thesaleroom.com.
The finely painted vase is decorated with a striking design of nine five-clawed dragons among stylised clouds.
It is thought to be closely related to a ‘mark and period’ vase of the same size and similar (two-dragon and lotus flower) 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 the subsequent Qianlong period.
The Singapore discovery, in good condition, came with a 1950s provenance. It was offered for sale 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 1954-62. According to a letter from the vendor, the vase was presented by Zhou Enlai (1898-1976), premier of the People’s Republic of China, while visiting Sri Lanka c.1956-57.
At auction the vase – which was undated and offered with an estimate of Sin$1000-2000 – found many admirers, culminating in a feverish 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 the quality of the painting,” said Matthew Elton, managing director at HotLotz.
”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. More than a dozen bidders competed and we are thrilled with the final price.”