Bronze Age Chinese vessels from one of the finest old English collections, formed by the 2nd Lord Cunliffe between the darkest war years of the early 1940s and his death in 1963, achieved astonishing prices at Bonhams sale of Chinese Art in London on November 5.
The most important group of early Chinese bronzes ever offered at Bonhams, the collection mainly comprised classic funerary vessels dating from the 12th to 2nd century BC.
The auction achieved a total of £4,936,300 and the Cunliffe items in the sale went like Guy Fawkes fireworks.
In a packed saleroom bronze and other objects achieved more than 10 times their pre-sale estimates.
Lot Eight (the luckiest number in Chinese numerology), an archaic bronze inscribed ritual food vessel, went for no less than £490,400 against a pre-sale estimate of £40,000-60,000.
Meanwhile, an archaic bronze ritual wine vessel estimated at £20,000-30,000 sold for £378,400.
Andagainst an estimate of £20,000-30,000.
"Once in a while an object of unique Imperial Chinese importance emerges which causes one to catch one's breath, holding in one's hands a personal object used by an Emperor that exceptionally captures his love for his people as shown in his attempt at reform," said Asaph Hyman, Senior Specialist in Chinese Art at Bonhams.
Written on the seal are the wise words 'Love your people as you would your own children' - but these words failed to save Emperor Guangxu during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.
The short reign of the Guangxu Emperor was witness to one of the most disruptive periods in the dynasty, culminating in the Boxer Rebellion around 1900.
"The message we heard today from Asian Art collectors is that the recession is officially over as far as Chinese art collectors are concerned," said Colin Sheaf, Head of Asian Art at Bonhams, and the company's Deputy Chairman.
"The sale proves one of the great truths of auctioneering, that the best and rarest items hold and exceed their value even in bad times. It has been a great pleasure to take a sale that so rousingly endorses the strength of the Asian Art market."