Chinese porcelain caused a stir in a sale at Schuler (23/20/16% buyer’s premium) in Zurich from March 22-26.
The auction house was swamped with bids for a pair of 8in (21cm) high covered vases on carved wooden bases.
They featured a six-character Jiaqing mark, which dates them to the period from 1760-1820, and were painted in green with the traditional motifs of two dragons with pearls.
The significance of the pearl has been the subject of much debate and has been interpreted as a symbol of power, prosperity, immortality and of the moon.
The covers are painted with an individual dragon chasing the pearl, while the shoulders are decorated with eight Buddhist symbols (Bajixiang).
The auction house underestimated the attraction of the pair, which were bid from SFr6000 to SFr170,000 (£134,920) and are returning to China.
A crowd of potential takers emerged for a 11in (28cm) high baluster vase, decorated with a dragon and a phoenix among peonies in Doucai-technique, a combination of underglaze and overglaze painting.
Schuler did not date the vase, which had been in a Swiss collection since the 1970s. The estimate was SFr3000-6000, but the international bidders drove the price to SFr60,000 (£47,620). This time, however, the Asian bidders were outpaced by a European dealer.