Previous News - Good things come in twos

25/03/13

Family who sold Imperial Chinese bowl sold for £195,000 find its pair

Identical second porcelain rarity headlines sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries

It was a blockbuster of an auction. The Tony Evans Collection of fine Imperial Chinese porcelain, jade and ivories, one of the most significant to have appeared on the provincial auction market in recent times, was expected to sell for around £150,000 when it was offered at The Canterbury Auction Galleries last May. It raised the staggering total of almost £900,000.

Retired Kent businessman Tony Evans and his wife, Anne, sat in the saleroom watching dumbstruck as pieces they had prized for 40 years sell for multiples of what was expected, the prices boosted by unprecedented demand for Chinese antiques from dealers and collectors around the world.

One particularly rare piece out-performed all the rest: a six-inch Imperial porcelain bowl decorated with pheasants, which was estimated at £8,000-12,000. It sold for £195,000. Now, astonishingly, the family has “found” its pair, which will be sold at The Canterbury Auction Galleries on April 16-17. It is estimated at £100,000-150,000.

The second pheasant bowl, which like its sister dates from the reign of the Kangxi emperor of 1662-1722, has languished in the back of a cupboard in East Anglia, in the home of Mr Evans’ son, Simon, 55, a chartered surveyor. How it came to be there is lost in the mists of time.

“We were all gobsmacked when my father’s collection made so much money and my jaw hit the floor when the pheasant bowl sold for £195,000,” Simon Evans said. “Then a few days after the sale, my father suddenly announced that he thought there might have been a pair of the bowls. He had forgotten completely.

“He’s such a collector he would never knowingly split a pair but I recalled him giving me a piece of porcelain sometime in the 1980s. I put it in a cupboard for safekeeping and simply forgot about it. It’s just as well the way things have worked out.

“My father kept meticulous records of his purchases but the bowls were not listed and he had no recollection of how much he had paid for them. No one could have known back then how important they would become. I’ve decided to sell it not because I need the money but because I’m anxious about having something so valuable in the house.”

Simon Evans’ grandfather started collecting oriental porcelain in 1925 during the time he worked for an Anglo/Chinese mining company based in the port of Tientsin near Beijing. That inspired Tony Evans to begin a collection of his own, buying mainly in the 1960s and 70s from top London dealers, notably the legendary S. Marchant and Son family dynasty who bought back five of the best pieces in the sale last May.

Made toward the end of the Kangxi period, the pheasant bowl, identical to its sister, is decorated with a pair of pheasants among flowers and foliage growing from rocks. It is similar to one from the Qing Court now in the Palace Museum Collection in Beijing.

Alastair Gibson, formerly head of Sotheby’s Asian Departments in Europe and now a consultant at The Canterbury Auction Galleries said it was rare to find a Kangxi bowl of this design incorporating underglaze blue and copper red within the wucai palette (wucai means five colours).

Mr Gibson will take the bowl to Hong Kong in April to show to prospective purchasers prior to the auction at The Canterbury Auction Galleries in the Two Day sale on April 16-17.

For further information, please contact the auctioneer on 01227 763337 or auctionrooms@btconnect.com.

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