Antique · Porcelain · Vase

The £53 million Qing Dynasty Vase that wasn’t

An elaborately decorated mid-18th century Chinese porcelain vase is shown on Oct. 6, 2010. It was discovered during a routine house clearance conducted by the west London auctioneers Bainbridge’s. The vase is thought to have been made for the emperor Qianlong and is estimated to fetch between 800,000 pounds and 1.5 million pounds at an auction on Nov. 11. Source: Bainbridge’s via Bloomberg
This 18th Century Qing Dynasty Vase was kept on a “wobbly bookshelf”
by an elderly man in a house in Pinner, in London, England.

The man had inherited the vase from his uncle, who had been Explorer, who had travelled through China in the 1920’s and 30’s.

It was insured for a mere £800 pounds.

When the man passed away, the vase was part of an estate auction at Bainbridge’s Auction House in 2010. It was only after a porcelain ceramics expert from Sotheby’s spotted the vase, and his subsequent research, that the Auction House realised what they had.

The 16 inch tall porcelain vase was made, for the Qing Emperor by a Master Craftsman between 1736 and 1795 and given the Imperial Seal.

It is thought to have been stolen from the Royal Palace, in Beijing, in the late 1900s, during a period of looting.

The discovery in 2010 sent the antiques world into a tailspin and it was estimated that the vase would fetch between £800,000 to £1.2million.

At the 2010 Auction, after frantic bidding, the vase sold for a record £53million (£43million gavel price plus 20% commission and tax), or US$70million (gavel price US$49.5million), exceeding estimates by a mile.

The price exceeded the previous record for a Chinese porcelain by £20million.

The purchaser was a Chinese Billionaire, however after two years, he had failed to make payment. He refused to pay the 20% commission on top of the gavel price and after two years of negotiation by the Auction House, the dispute with the Buyer couldn’t be resolved.

The vase was subsequently offered for sale again in 2012, this time by Bonham’s and sold for £25million; some £20million less than the previous auction result.



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