In the 1970s, when many were sourced by London dealers in Hong Kong, they were a few hundred pounds each. Today prices have increased 100-fold.
Good pairs were seen at both McTear’s (24% buyer’s premium) in Glasgow on December 17 and at Roseberys (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) in London on November 9.
The Glasgow pair (shown above), measuring just under 6in (15cm) across, were decorated to both the interiors (in blue and white) and the exteriors (in famille rose enamels) with chrysanthemum blooms. The pale blue grounds were further embellished with graviata scrolls.
The auction house deemed them 20th century copies and described them as ‘probably Republican’ and published an estimate of just £100-200, but bidders thought better. Despite some condition issues to one (two small chips and a hairline to the rim), they brought £52,000.
The same sum, this time against a guide of £8000-12,000, was bid at Roseberys for a pair of yellow ground bowls each painted with medallions of flowering peony (symbol of prosperity) and lingzhi fungus (longevity) interspersed with auspicious Daoist emblems and lotus flowers. They measured 4½in (11cm) across.
Rather than a typical Daoguang seal mark in underglaze blue, these had a four-character iron-red Shendetang Zhi marks to bases for the Shendetang (Hall of Prudent Virtue), a residence within the Yuanmingyuan commissioned by the Daoguang emperor. As the project was not completed until 1831, pieces bearing this mark can be tightly dated to the two decades between 1831 and 1850.
These bowls came by descent from the collection of Robert C Bruce (1898-1953), whose interest in Oriental works of art grew after inheriting imperial ceramics and cloisonné enamels acquired by his great uncle Sir Frederick Bruce, ambassador to Peking from 1860-64.