Today at Sothebys
in London, prices soared for rare Chinese and Japanese works of art, with individual pieces selling for many multiples of their estimates, bringing the combined total to £18,279,875 (US$28,650,048 / HK$223,470,374), far exceeding the combined pre-sale low estimate of £5 million (US$7.9 million / HK$61.6 million).
The morning began with the single owner sale The Soul of Japanese Aesthetics: The Tsuneichi Inoue Collection formed by the Tokyo collector Tsuneichi Inoue. Encapsulating the most refined of collecting taste in Japan in the early to mid-20th century, the auction, comprising 69 lots, brought a total £7,912,750 (US$12,401,653 / HK$96,732,893), well over its pre-sale high estimate of £1.6 million.
An ancient painted earthenware female bust, Dogu, from Japans Neolithic era, was feverishly pursued, driving the final sale price to £1,013,000 (US$1,587,675 / HK$12,383,865), well in excess of its pre-sale estimate of £70,000-90,000. Measuring 19.5cm in height (if still intact, it would have been quite large, perhaps more than 40cm tall), this Dogu was made during the Jomon period (circa 12,000 BC-300 BC) and belongs to a group of similar figurines that have been labelled shakoki-dogu (goggle-eyed ceramic figurines) given the resemblance of their large eyes to sun goggles that were used by the hunting tribes of the northern region.
Estimated at £200,000-250,000, a Rare Blue and White Facetted Vase, a superb example of blue and white porcelain made in the era of Chinas global voyages (1405-1433), brought £3,845,000 (US$6,026,268 / HK$47,004,890). Deriving its shape from Middle Eastern metal prototypes and painted with cobalt pigment mined in Persia, vases of this type are extremely rare, with only five known examples from the Xuande period in museum collections.
A Rare 'Beishoku Guanyao' Vase sold for £1,085,000 (US$ 1,700,520 / HK$13,261,950). With its highly unusual golden amber glaze and exquisite 'ice flake' crackle, it represents one of the rarest varieties of Guan wares of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). The yellow glaze colour, resonant of rare yellow jade, would have appealed to connoisseurs of the period.
The sale of Important Chinese Art followed and realised a total of £10,367,125 (US$16,248,395 / HK$126,737,481). The top lot, a Rare Sancai Phoenix-Head Ewer from the Tang Dynasty, ignited an intense bidding battle, resulting in a sale price of £2,725,000 (US$4,270,892 / HK$33,312,958) against an estimate of £40,000-60.000 and with London dealer Eskenazi Ltd as the winning bidder. Phoenix head ewers with applied designs are extremely rare and this particular ewer embodies the commercial and cultural exchange that characterises the art of the early Tang dynasty, with the Tang potters having a far-reaching effect on the opening of diplomatic relations between China and Persia.
A Rare and Magnificent Archaic Bronze Wine Vessel, Fangding brought $2,389,000 (US$3,744,280 / HK$29,205,384), almost six times the pre-sale low estimate of £400,000. Fang ding are among the rarest ritual vessels of the Bronze Age and this piece, with its bold taotie mask and powerful shape, is an exceptional example that ranks among the most attractive of its kind.