An exquisite pair of Qianlong-marked 'bajixiang' moonflasks saw the highest bids in Sotheby's Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction, held in London last night (May 15).
Bearing the seal of the Qianlong emperor (1711-1799), a renowned patron of the arts and collector, the moonflasks were destined to sell well. However, they excelled past all expectations, bringing £2.3m ($3.6m) and a 58.5% increase on the £1.5m high estimate.
The moonflasks are decorated with eight petal-shaped panels radiating from a double vajra (a Buddhist symbol commonly found in Asian art). Each of these panels contains one of the eight auspicious Buddhist emblems (bajixiang).
Also starring in the sale was a white and russet jade ruyi, or sceptre, which was gifted by Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) - former head of the Chinese Nationalist Government - to Maharaja Sir Padma Sumshere Jung Bahadur Rana of Nepal.
This fantastic provenance ensured that the finely carved piece, which is one of the largest of its size and incredibly rare, sold far beyond its £150,000 high estimate at £866,500 ($1.3m) - an outstanding 477% increase.
Ruyi of this quality and size are extremely scarce, as boulders large enough to make them are rarely found.
They are highly auspicious objects, with their shape and ornamentation representing the common Chinese propitious expression "as you wish".
Bonhams' own Chinese art auction - to be held in London later today (May 16) - will offer a pair of 18th century gilt-lacquer cabinets that may have been housed in Beijing's Forbidden City.