A blue and white porcelain Dragon jar sold for $7,658,000 in the Fine Asian Works of Art sale on Monday December 13th at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco. The 360-lot sale brought more than $19m with the vast majority of the lots fetching multiples of their estimates.
The excitement in the standing-room-only saleroom was palpable, as determined bidders on the telephone and in the audience fought to win the much-coveted jar. Brooke Sivo, the sale's principal auctioneer and a 22-year veteran of the art world, expertly guided the bidding along until it culminated in the record price.
There was much anticipation and deliberation over the Dragon jar. Following careful pre-sale research and consultation, the firm described the jar conservatively as Qianlong Mark, Late Qing/Republic Period and gave it a pre-sale estimate of $10,000-15,000.
Ultimately, two key investors backed their own judgment and the Dragon jar sold for a remarkable $7,658,000.
Dessa Goddard, Vice President and Director, Asian Works of Art, commented, "The jar proved to be a puzzle for several clients with whom I spoke who all declared it to be unique. Without a consensus of opinion we felt obliged to be cautious with our attribution. Needless to say, we are elated that the jar achieved such a spectacular price. Its sale provided a fantastic slice of auction drama that our clients and staff will remember for many years to come."
The blue and white porcelain jar measures an impressive 14 inches high and is decorated with bands of plantain leaves, waves, and a cloud-collar at the waisted neck and broad shoulders. The sides are densely painted with six meticulously rendered five-clawed dragons portrayed emerging from crashing waves and flying amid stylized clouds and flames.
Regular readers and others following the market will no doubt be aware that antique Chinese vases and collectibles from the reign of Qianlong have been achieving extraordinary prices repeatedly over the past few years, notably the world record at Bainbridge.
Additional highlights from the sale included: a gilt copper alloy and colored glass overlay model of an elephant, 19th/20th Century (sold for $1,834,000); a set of eighteen carved ivory luohan, 19th Century (sold for $506,000); a pair of hanging scroll paintings titled "Morning Glories and Gourds" by Qi Baishi (sold for $458,000) and a rare carved rhinoceros horn libation cup, 17th/18th Century (sold for $386,000).
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