Chinese Ming stem cup makes $5.3m in Hong Kong sale

A Chinese Ming Xuande period (1426-1435) stem cup has sold for $5.3m in a Hong Kong auction.

The sale, hosted jointly by Freeman's and Lyon & Turnbull, took place on May 31.

dragon cup stem
The stem cup was sold to fund a new ceramics centre at Staffordshire University

The lot was consigned from the Ernest Thornhill collection, which he bequeathed to Staffordshire University in 1944.

It displays a flying dragon motif and features a truly exceptional glaze that has barely aged at all in its almost 600-year-long lifespan.

The Xuande period is associated with a rise in the quality of imperial ceramics.

The kilns also began to include names and dates on the base, making dating and identifying the output of different regions much easier.

Stem cups such as the present specimen are extremely rare and seldom come up for auction. A 15th century Chinese "chicken cup" sold for a record $36.2m at Sotheby's Hong Kong in 2014.

Lee Young, Lyon & Turnbull's head of Asian art, comments: "The Ming Xuande (1426-35) mark and period blue and white Stem Cup is a rare masterpiece and is virtually unseen outside museum collections.

"This is a great result, bringing the sale to Hong Kong has proved to be the right decision for both Lyon & Turnbull and our partner Freeman's…"

The proceeds from the sale will be used to fund a new ceramics education centre at Staffordshire University, where the rest of Thornhill's collection will be housed.

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