An extremely rare Tang Ying soapstone carving has sold for $2.4m at Michaan's Auctions (June 23), making it the highest-selling Asian soapstone carving ever to auction in the US.
The exceptional sale price represents a 15,633% increase on the lot's $150,000 top estimate.
International telephone and internet bids poured in, while auction attendees saw live bidders rise to their feet, propelling the hammer price ever higher.
When the carving eventually sold to an anonymous telephone bidder, auction goers burst into spontaneous applause.
Asian art specialist Harry Huang remarked that the sale had greatly exceeded his expectations:
"I believe that this work of Tang Ying will continue to be a powerful force in the world marketplace. I also think that this auction speaks volumes on the explosive state of the current Asian antiquities marketplace; what appears to be its very bright future is a thrilling prospect for Michaan's Auctions."
The 18th century carving, constructed from two substantial slices of soapstone, depicts Tang Ying - the Qing dynasty imperial porcelain kiln supervisor - seated between young boys.
The sale reflects the impact of Chinese collectors on the market place.
"A whole new sector of the art and antiques trade has sprung up to service this Oriental juggernaut," writes Antique Collecting magazine.
"Vendors in this country," the US-based magazine asserts, "receive pleasant shocks when artefacts that have lain unappreciated since great uncle George brought them back from a sojourn Out East suddenly become examples of things the Chinese avidly wish to reacquire."
Michaan's Auctions' Scott Bradley acknowledged the significance of the sale: "The sale of the Tang Ying carving was the largest single sale I have presided over in my career. It has been a thrilling and exciting time to say the least."Please sign up for our free weekly newsletter.