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Exceptional Offerings Fuel Demand At Paris Asian-Art Sales

Rare offerings yielded impressive results in two auctions of Asian art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s late last month.

PARIS—Rare offerings yielded impressive results in two auctions of Asian art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s late last month. In a strong sale at Sotheby’s on Dec. 18, 377 lots fetched a total of E7.8million ($11.3million). Of the lots, 255, or 68 percent, were sold; by value the auction was 90 percent sold. A blue-and-white porcelain flask dating from the Ming dynasty, Yongle period (1403–24), was the top lot of the auction, far surpassing its estimate of E200,000/300,000 to sell for E1.7million ($2.5million) and setting a record for any sale at the house in Paris last year. One highlight was a Chinese blue-and-white porcelain moon flask from the Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736–95), which fetched E432,750 ($623,360) against an estimate of E18,000/25,000.

Other surprisingly strong prices included that of a porcelain hat stand from the Qianlong period, which fetched E252,750 ($358,900), more than 20 times its estimate of E8,000/12,000. A large Qing dynasty imperial seal of pale jade carved with two dragons and bearing the seal of the dowager empress Cixi (1835–1908) fetched E138,750 ($200,000) on an estimate of E25,000/35,000. And a large libation cup carved from a rhinoceros horn, Qianlong period, sold for E264,750 ($381,360), more than double the estimate of E80,000/120,000.

Several other pieces far exceeded their high estimates as well, including a pair of Chinese horses carved from pale celadon jade, Qianlong period; they sold for E63,150 ($91,000) against an estimate of E5,000/7,000. A pair of Chinese huanghuali wood tables, 17th–18th century, sold for E156,750 ($225,800) against an estimate of E35,000/40,000.

On Dec. 21, Christie’s auction of Asian art brought in a total of E3.4million ($4.9million). In all, 281, or 67 percent, of the 419 lots found buyers. By value, the auction was 81 percent sold.

The top lot of the sale was a rare Chinese green and red lacquered dish, Yuan dynasty, 14th century. It sold for E241,00 ($345,040), more than double its E80,000/100,000 estimate. A rare gray schist figure of a bodhisattva, second or third century, from the Gandhara region fetched E217,000 ($312,588), within its E200,000/300,000 estimate. A Chinese libation cup carved from a rhinoceros horn, 17th century, brought more than double its estimate of E30,000/40,000, selling for E97,000 ($139,728). Another Chinese rhinoceros-horn libation cup, 18th century, fetched the same price of E97,000 against a much lower E10,000/15,000 estimate.

One of the biggest surprises of the sale was another of the top ten lots: a pair of rare Chinese porcelain bowls decorated in copper red, Qianlong period, which fetched E73,000 ($105,156) against an estimate of E4,000/6,000. The same price was paid for a more modern piece—a nine-inch-long boat carved from a rhinoceros horn, ca. 1900—almost double the estimate of E30,000/40,000.

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