$10,000 Chinese Vases Soar to $1.2 Million at Doyle

Pair of Chinese Famille Rose Glazed Porcelain Covered Vases, 19th Century, the base with a Qianlong seal mark, fitted wood stand. The pairs sold for $1.2 million, far exceeding the $10–15,000 estimate. Photo: Courtesy of Doyle New York

Underscoring the frequently fierce competition at auction for the most prized Chinese artworks, a pair of 19th century glazed porcelain vases with a well-documented history of ownership, blew past the pre-sale estimate of $10,000–15,000 to sell for $1.2 million at Doyle New York‘s sale of Asian Works of art on September 15.

“We catalogued them as 19th-century, based on our research, but as you know it just takes two people to think they were 18th century,” Doyle consultant Marley Rabstenek told artnet News via phone. She explained that the original 18th century Qianlong mark was often copied in the 19th and 20th centuries. While the copies still have value, she explained, it is the 18th century works that are most desirable and several buyers “felt strongly” that these particular Chinese vases were older than the catalogue claimed.

According to a Bloomberg report by Katya Kazakina, roughly a dozen bidders, some in the salesroom and others via phone, competed for the vases. The winning bidder was a representative in the room who purchased the works on behalf of an anonymous buyer. Though Doyle representatives would not say where the buyer is based, wealthy mainland Chinese buyers have been quite active, accounting for many of the top prices at auction in recent seasons.

The solid provenance was undoubtedly a factor in the desirability of the works, according to Bloomberg. The original owner was George Upham Harris, former director of publicity for the New York Stock Exchange, who passed away in 1971. The vases had remained in his family’s possession since then and had been handed down. Each vase stands 16 inches high, with painted flowers and blossoms against a turquoise background. According to Doyle’s catalogue entry, the bases bear the Qianlong seal mark.

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