Sotheby’s October series in Hong Kong included two outstanding prices for Chinese works of art – eight-figure hammer prices for a Qing yangcai reticulated vase and a Ming huanghuali folding horseshoe-back armchair.
Folding horseshoe-back armchairs or jiaoyi are perhaps the most highly sought after of all items of furniture created by Chinese carpenters. The Ming painting Bir thday Gathering in the Bamboo Garden by Lü Ji and Lü Wenying in the Beijing Palace Museum shows some of the highest-ranking government officials of the day seated on similar chairs.
Conceived to be folded for easy transport, these portable chairs were naturally prone to damage, making survivors extremely precious.
The 16th century example offered on October 8 as part of the collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung is one of fewer than 30 Ming examples known and one of only five reinforced at critical points with damascened iron braces.
Sharing the same proportions, scale and hardware, they are thought to have emanated from the same workshop.
It had previously been in the collection of Arthur M Sackler (1968-96) and was last sold at Christie’s New York in 2001 when it made a far more modest $350,000.
Twenty-one years later in Hong Kong it received over 60 bids and sold for a 10-timesestimate sum of HK$106m (£12.2m) or HK$125m including premium.
The HK$152m (£17.5m) vase took a full half an hour to sell, generating more than 80 bids on October 7.
A virtuoso piece of Qianlong porcelain, the intricate 12in (31cm) design combines reticulated, interlocking and revolving elements with Chinese symbolism and Western baroque style decoration. Court archives suggest it was made in 1743 or immediately thereafter.
The vase has an illustrious provenance, as one of the ‘Fonthill heirlooms’ of Alfred Morrison (1821-97). It was bought at the 1971 Fonthill House sale by the diplomat and statesman Wou Kiuan (1910-97).
Born in China just months before the overthrow of the Qing dynasty, he was driven to collect the relics of China’s rich historical past that were fast being scattered across Europe in the 1950s-60s. With premium the price for this vase was HK$177.5m.