Chinese blue and white ewer modelled on a Zhou bronze wine vessel – £23,000 at Cheffins.

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It is decorated with stylised lotus blossom and the Bajixiang, the eight Buddhist emblems in order: flaming wheel, conch shell, umbrella, canopy, lotus, vase, double fish and endless knot above lotus sprays.

Several examples with Qianlong (1730-96) seal marks have appeared for sale in London, New York and Hong Kong. Another of this design with a Qianlong seal mark is illustrated in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum, Blue and White Ware of the Ch’ing Dynasty.

Cheffins catalogued its ewer, with a break to the rim (two pieces broken and replaced) as a later copy but at least some bidders begged to differ. At the sale on February 10, it reached £23,000.

Vessels such as this were hugely popular in the Qing court where ancient objects were particularly revered. The Qianlong emperor himself exhorted his court and craftsmen to look to China’s archaic past for moral guidance and artistic inspiration.

In particular, a large number of 18th century jades (and the many copies that followed) were inspired by the forms and designs of antiquity.

Sought-after vase


Qing jade vase with Qianlong six-character fang gu mark – £22,500 at Specialist Auction Services.

Some good examples were offered as a group by Special Auction Services (20% buyer’s premium) of Newbury in the monthly Antiques & Collectables sale staged on February 1. Offered with only descriptive catalogue descriptions and modest guides, three lots took five-figure sums.

The 11in (28cm) vase pictured here, in a pale green stone with russet inclusions assumed a flattened baluster form and is carved with a repeating pattern based on heavily stylised mythical beasts. To the base is a six-character Qianlong six-character fang gu mark – one that suggests the carving is ‘imitating an old relic’. Clearly some bidders thought it was 18th century as bidding rose way past the estimate of £1000-1500 to bring £22,500.

Vases such as this are sometimes referred to as incense-tool vases as they would be used to contain the chopsticks and spatulas used in the preparation of incense for Buddhistic ceremonies.