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Family reaps reward at The Canterbury Auction Galleries with Chinese porcelain purchased 40 years ago

Investing 40 years ago in a rare, 18th century Chinese porcelain cup paid dividends for an East Kent family in a sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries when it sold for £14,000.

Appropriately, it was purchased by a Mainland Chinese buyer, one member of a still highly active group of collectors and dealers spending freely in UK auctions in order to buy back their country’s art historical heritage.

The 4.25ins (107mm) high white porcelain "Anhua" decorated "Dragon" stem cup with the encircled six character mark of the Qianlong period (1736-1795), was finely incised with five clawed dragons in pursuit of flaming pearls within borders of clouds and waves. Anhua means “hidden” decoration, which is seen only as impressions in the porcelain, ether under a clear glaze or through transmitted light.

Its owner explained that after selling a pair of the cups in a top London saleroom 40 years ago, part of the £50,000 proceeds were used by his father to purchase another similar but smaller cup from a London dealer. It had been consigned to the Canterbury auction only because the family was downsizing.

There was also a cash windfall for an elderly Folkestone lady who had consigned three Chinese bronze two-handled censers, each with four character seals and dating from the 20th century, the of most valuable of which sold for £10,000, a multiple of its estimate. It was purchased by a Beijing dealer, one of two telephone bidders each as determined as the other, so much so that the price jumped by thousands of pounds at a time. The other two censers, used for burning incense, sold for £800 and £300 respectively and were purchased by Chinese buyers living in the UK.

Another surprise was provided by the success of a Chinese powder blue glazed porcelain and gilt baluster shaped vase decorated with birds perched on prunus blossom branches and bamboo shoots. From a local home, the vase dated from the Kanxi period (1662-1722) and sold to a London Chinese buyer bidding on the telephone for £6,000, again a multiple of its estimate.

A Chinese blue and white porcelain "Lotus Scroll" bulbous vase, painted in the Ming style with leaf scroll within classic lotus scroll borders bore the Qianlong seal mark in underglaze blue, but dated from the late 19th century. It had been acquired by the vendor in a London auction in 2006 and sold this time for an above estimate £3,100.

Discovered at the auctioneers’ recent valuation day at historic Hole Park in Rolvenden, near Cranbrook, was a 19th century Chinese flambé glazed stoneware bulbous vase which had been acquired by G.E. Hubbard (1885-1951) a Foreign Office diplomat stationed in Peking between 1920-1924. Sent for sale by his family, the vase was purchased by a Chinese buyer living in London for £1,900.

Away from Chinese ceramics, an Isnik (Turkish) pottery charger enamelled in blue, green and brown with a central floral pattern within a border of roundels, dated from 1600-1630 and sold to a Sussex collector for £3,000. The piece had been brought back by the vendor's grandfather from Western Turkey in around 1919 and was sold by the same family who owned the Dragon stem cup already mentioned.

Antique jade is always high on the wish lists of Chinese buyers and this sale presented a good selection, which was fallen on with gusto. Most valuable proved to be a rectangular pendant carved with calligraphy with a gold fitment to take a chain. It measured just 2.25 inches (56mm) by 1.75 inches (45mm) and sold to a Hong Kong dealer bidding on the telephone for £6,500, again a multiple of its estimate.

Ironically, the pendant was sold on behalf of a Chinese vendor living in the UK who also consigned a pale celadon jade rectangular ink stone with brown inclusions, carved with three kylin. It sold for £2,400, also to the Hong Kong trade, while a rectangular jade hand rest with brown inclusions, the top carved with prunus blossoms, which measured just three inches, sold for £1,000. It was purchased by a Beijing dealer.

A small collection of jade comprising a celadon circular plaque carved with a dragon; another carved with archaic designs; an oval ring carved with stylised dragons and a black jade carving of a figure beside a mountain, all of which were smaller than three inches, sold for an estimate-busting £2,000, and a 3.5 inch white jade seated figure of a Buddha holding fruit and a flower sold for £2,200.

There was good news for a visitor to one of the saleroom’s free Friday valuation mornings who arrived with two suitcases. He was emptying his later father’s property on the outskirts of Paris and wanted to be sure he was not disposing of anything valuable.

Among the treasures was a Japanese carved ivory and hardwood Meiji period figure of a bearded man carrying an umbrella and a barrel on his back from which is emerging a devil-like figure. It sold to a local collector in the room for an above estimate £2,900, while a carved hardwood, ivory and Shibyama figure of a street vendor was secured for £720. He was wearing a wide brimmed hat, his robes inlaid in mother of pearl with flowers and he was flanked by square containers set with ivory tablets. The figure was purchased by a Sussex dealer on the telephone.

Most unusual item in the oriental section of the Two Day Sale was a Chinese single-strand necklace contained in a cylindrical lead box. Interestingly, the beads were made of rare Aloeswood, while the necklace measured almost four feet (1300mm) in length. Also known as Agarwood, Aloeswood forms only in two particular large evergreens native to southeast Asia when they become infected with a type of mould. The tree counters the infection by producing a dark aromatic resin which becomes embedded in the wood. Valued for its distinctive fragrance, it was used as incense and for perfumes and has great cultural and religious significance in ancient civilisations. The necklace sold to a Beijing dealer for £5,300.

Most amusing piece, however, was a carved bamboo seated figure of a Luohan with a basket of fruit at his side. Dating from the late 17th or 18th century era of the Qing dynasty, the four-inch (102mm) figure recalls the Buddhist tradition that groups of Luohans were commanded by Buddha to await the coming of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. The fruit probably represents Luohan cai, or Buddha’s delight, a dish favoured by vegetarian Buddhist monks. The figure sold for an above estimate £2,600.

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