A pair of Chinese porcelain vases sold yesterday for $1.2 million at Doyle New York, soaring 120 times past its low estimate.
The two 16-inch tall glazed vases, painted with branches of blooming peonies on a turquoise background, each had a Qianlong-era seal on its base, referring to the reign of the Qianlong Emperor from 1736 to 1795.
Estimated at $10,000 to $15,000, they were part of Doyle’s “Asian Works of Art” sale in New York. The price includes buyer’s commission.
An unusual "famille rose" and gold-decorated vase with molded design was sold for $18 million at Sotheby's in New York. It had been estimated to make just $800 to $1,200.
The entire auction, which included about 360 lots, tallied $3.3 million, surpassing the presale target of $1 million to $1.6 million; 79 percent of the lots sold. In 2011, another vase thought to have been made during the Qianlong era zoomed to $18 million. It had been estimated at $800 to $1,200.
“Qianlong period was the height of porcelain production,” Marley Rabstenek, Doyle’s consultant for the Asian department, said in a telephone interview. “People go crazy for these works.”
Asian art sales this week in New York at Sotheby’s (BID), Christie’s, Bonhams and Doyle are expected to tally $95 million. Sotheby’s accounts for most of the value with five sales, with a target of as much as $58 million.
“The breakneck speed we’ve seen in the past 10 years has stabilized,” said Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby’s vice chairman of Asian Art. “We keep breaking records but the pace is more sustainable.”
About 12 hopeful collectors yesterday vied for the vases with bids by phone and in the room at Doyle. The winner was an agent in the room who bought on behalf of an anonymous client, according to Rabstenek, who declined to say where the collector was based.
An elaborately decorated mid-18th century Chinese porcelain vase made for emperor Qianlong has been resold by Bonhams. It was bid to a record 51.6 million pounds ($83 million) in 2010.
The original owner of the vases was George Upham Harris, the publicity director for the New York Stock Exchange who died in 1971, according to Doyle. The vases passed through the family to the consigner.
In a market plagued by forgeries, the provenance “assured the buyers that they weren’t made yesterday,” Rabstenek said. “Just because they have this mark on the bottom doesn’t mean they were made in the 18th century. Qianlong pieces were copied in 19th century, 20th century and they are copied now.”
In 2010, London-based auction house Bainbridges achieved a record price of 51.6 million pounds ($83.7 million) for a Qianlong era vase, though the buyer reneged and the vase was later sold privately for less than half that amount.