Chinese treasures bring more great results for Asian art

Domestic buyers and sellers of Chinese decorative arts, no matter how experienced in the trade, have come to face each major sale on the auction calendar expecting the unexpected.

China's dynamic economy and the subsequent explosion of that nation's antique and decorative arts market has created surging, wave-like trends that suddenl and unexpectedly crash American auction house floors, often to the delight of auctioneers and their consignors.

A ruyi sceptre, sold for $67,000

Such was the case on Saturday, March 20, when Freeman's Asian Arts Department hosted a large contingent of international buyers for their spring auction.

The sale saw strong price bids for known achievers, such as hardwood furniture and antique carved jade and - in some cases - even stronger bids for pieces previously dismissed as 'good but middling'.

A large Chinese Hu-form vase from China's Republic period in the first half of the 20th century was a bold and attractive piece but very new compared to the many period ceramics offered from the Qing, Ming and even Song dynasties.

It eclipsed them all in price, achieving $28,600 after competitive bidding on the floor.

The widening of that market is a boon to collectors and dealers worldwide who have so far been relying on the limited reserve of fine period porcelains remaining outside of China to drive the trade.

Elsewhere, an unusual 18-19th century polychrome stained elephant ivory and carnelian-mounted ruyi sceptre - whose mixed condition told a tale of its age, one time mishandling and subsequent creative and loving restoration - won over Freeman's visiting buyers.

It ended up being the top lot at the auction, bringing $67,000 and an ovation from the audience after heated bidding.

Its price attests to the piece's cultural significance, and there is no doubt the scepter will be well received when it returns to China.

Qing Dynasty artefacts have been among the star lots at a number of high-profile auctions in recent months.

In September of last year, in Hong Kong, an 1897 Qing Dynasty Three Cents Red Revenue stamp sold for the highest amount ever paid for a Chinese Stamp.

One of only 50 such stamps to ever be created - of which only 32 can be accounted for today -  it far exceeded its $250,000 estimate to bring a World Record-breaking $331,671.

More recently, a Silver Pattern Proof Dollar from 1916 - when China was in transition from the last of the Qing dynasty Emperors to its Republic - sold at Baldwin's, earlier this month.

Depicting Yuan Shih-Kai in military uniform, the excellent condition coin more than doubled its $15,000 estimate, bringing $32,000.


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