Previous News - Chinese flex muscle at The Canterbury Auction Galleries


The thirst for Chinese antiques and works of art currently being seen in salerooms across the country remains unquenched, judging by results at The Canterbury Auction Galleries.

With newly enfranchised Chinese dealers and collectors flexing their financial muscle, it seems there is no upper limit to the prices they are prepared to pay to repatriate the possessions of their ancestors. Time and again, saleroom estimates were ignored by bidders on the Internet, the telephone and attending in person for almost anything with the word “Chinese” in the catalogue description.

Top of the shop was a pair of 17th century blue and white porcelain double gourd-shaped vases printed with figures on a terrace by a lake, which sold to a Shanghai dealer bidding on the telephone for a massive £18,600. This figure, a multiple of the presale estimate, was even more surprising in view of the fact that one of the 13-inch high vases had damage and repairs to its neck.

A buyer from Thailand, bidding on the Internet, made one local collector's day when he paid £8,700 for a pair of blue and white porcelain baluster-shaped vases which the local man had purchased for £300 in local auction two years ago. The vases were decorated with figures on a terrace against a river landscape and had been estimated at £300-400. Close behind at £7,100 were three pieces of Kangshi blue and white porcelain bowls decorated with figures of a terrace and on horseback, which had been inherited by the consignor from a relative living in Holland. They were purchased by a London-based Chinese specialist dealer.

There was also a great deal of interest in the remaining collection of antique Chinese and Eastern Buddhas and Buddhist figures from the Canterbury home of the late Mr Maurice Milner (1922-1992) a former Director of Physical Education at King’s School. He would go on the “Grand Tour” of antique shops around the country, buying more and more of the figures until his home was crammed with them.

The final nine from his collection raised a total of £26,000, pick of which was a crowned giltwood and red lacquer border which sold for £10,100 against an estimate of £400-600. It was purchased by the Shanghai telephone buyer of the double gourd-shaped vases, while an Internet bidder from Laguna Hills, California, paid £7,800 for a 17th century Chinese gilt bronze figure of Kuan Yin, the so-called Buddhist Madonna and goddess of mercy and compassion. It had been estimated at £1,000-1,500.

A pair of Chinese carved giltwood and red lacquer standing figures of Kuan Yin, which were purchased by Mr. Milner on his last trip to Hong Kong will be returning there after a buyer there paid £4,400 to secure them against an estimate of £450-600, while a Hong Kong commission bidder paid £1,150 for a giltwood and red lacquer seated version of the same figure which was reputed to have been acquired by an English officer during the Boxer Rebellion. A London-based specialist dealer paid £1,250 for a pair of figures, one depicting Kuan Yin, the other the Goddess of Wisdom, Mahasthama, which had been estimated at £450-600.

The fascination for all things oriental spilled over into other sections of the sale In paintings, a Chinese School study of cormorants and another of sparrows and bamboo were each estimated at £300-400 but sold to a London-based specialist dealer for £2,300 and £508 respectively, while an Internet bidder from France paid £1,500 for a pen, ink and watercolour drawing of an old man standing by a frog, which had been estimated at £200-250. In metalware, a Meiji period Japanese cloisonné enamel circular charger decorated with fruit, hanging lanterns, flowers and scrollwork on the turquoise ground sold to an Irish buyer on the Internet for £1700.

The sale opened strongly with European ceramics, pick of which was a trio of good figures of colourful London street vendors by Charles Vyse, spotted by auctioneer Tony Pratt when he was called in by a Folkestone client to value furniture. From the early range of figures produced by the former Doulton modeller, each was painted in blue with the monogram “CV” and “Chelsea” and dated 1925.

All three sold above estimate, the most valuable proving to be The Windmill Woman, modelled wearing a yellow dress and plaid shawl and carrying a basket of children’s multi-coloured toy windmills. It sold for an above estimate £3,400 to a telephone bidder from Florida, against competition from another collector bidding on the telephone from New York. A local private collector secured the other two, The Cineraria Boy, a standing figure of a man wearing a check jacket and herringbone trousers holding a bunch of the blue flowers in the crook of his left arm, which sold for £2,300 and The Daffodil Woman, a figure dressed in a full length green and blue striped dress and orange shawl, holding flowers in her right hand and with a basket of further flowers at her feet, which sold for £1,500

Another rarity was a pair of royal blue ground Shelley pottery baluster-shaped vases, decorated in the Moorcroft manner with the "Poppy" design, which attracted attention from the Shelley Collectors' Club and will feature in their upcoming magazine. The vases were brought in to one of the saleroom's free Friday valuation mornings, their North Kent owner greatly surprised to learn they were worth £150-200. She was even more surprised when a private Cheshire collector paid £1,654 them on the telephone.

In continental ceramics, an 18th century Meissen porcelain figure “Turkish Woman”, modelled after a design by P. Reinicke, which was estimated at £600-800, sold to a specialist dealer from the South of England for £1,400, much to the delight of an Ashford vendor.

Other valuable Friday valuation morning finds were a 1960s Turkish silver five-piece tea and coffee service and oval tray (900 Standard, gross weight 124ozs) which sold for £1,900, and pick of the English silver, a late Victorian circular Monteith, by Elkington and Co Ltd, London, 1897 (144 ozs) which sold for £6,800. They were each purchased by London silver dealers.

Among an eclectic selection of works of art, a late 18th or early 19th century Indian Vizagapatnam rectangular ivory work box engraved in the neoclassical manner with leaf and bellflower swags, initialled G G C, was estimated at £700-1,000, reflecting its damaged condition but it sold to a West Country collector bidding on the Internet for £1,350, no doubt because of its finally fitted interior and numerous ivory fitments.

In the same section, an erotic mechanical bronze and gilt figure of a girl reclining on a bearskin rug, her dress opening to reveal her standing nude, by Carl Kauba (1865-1922) sold for £1,050. The figure came from a North Kent estate and was purchased by an Internet bidder from the Home Counties.

Most valuable clock in the sale was a late 17th or early 18th century brass lantern clock by Humphrey Marsh of Highworth (died 1733) with verge movement, single hand and pierced and engraved dolphin pattern frets It sold for an above estimate £3,900 to a specialist dealer. An 19thcentury French carriage clock with alarum by Drocourt and retailed by Ollivant & Botsford, the movement striking and quarter repeating on two gongs and retaining its original case was entered in the sale from a home in Hythe and was purchased by a local collector on the telephone for £2,900 against an estimate the £700-1000. An interesting early 20th century Eureka Clock Co Ltd electric mantle timepiece in mahogany case from a Thanet vendor sold to a Cheshire collector on the Internet for an above estimate £1,750.

In furniture, a set of six 19th century Anglo-Indian ebony balloon back dining chairs with cane seats created a good deal of interest and sold to a specialist dealer from the Weald of Kent for £1,300 against an estimate of £400-600, while from a local solicitor’s office was an imposing nine feet Wide William IV figured mahogany bookcase with recessed front fitted with a central drawer and writing slide, which sold to an Irish dealer bidding on the telephone for £3,000.

The sale raised a total of more than £355,000, one of the best in recent months, with a record amount of £74,300 worth of property, representing 172 lots, being sold on the Internet. In addition to those already mentioned, bids came from Miami, Canada, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland and Holland. There were 136 registered telephone bidders and 225 commission bidders, many on multiple lots.

The next Two Day sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries is on Tuesday and Wednesday May 24-25 and entries are invited. Please contact the saleroom on 01227 763337 or by email at

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