Going, going: Two tiny bowls fetch €100,000 at Durrow sale

Taiwanese buyer was a first time bidder at Sheppard’s, which regularly sells Asian art

A frantic bidding war which ended in just three minutes saw two small Chinese peach bowls sell at Sheppard's auction house in Durrow for €100,000 – almost 10 times their estimate of €8,000-€12,000.

Dating from the Qing dynasty and bearing a six character mark of Yongzheng, each bowl measures just five inches across. According to the auction house the bowls came from an Irish family living in Wexford, and were a last minute addition to the sale.

"We knew they were important from their markings and the numerous condition reports requested prior to the auction" said Philip Sheppard, who has built up a reputation for selling rare Chinese antiques.

“We had a large number of interested parties examining the bowls at the weekend – some with high powered eyepieces, taking up to an hour to establish their bubble distribution and authenticity.”


Silence descended upon the auction rooms in Durrow just before lunch when bidding for lot 849 commenced. Among the attendees in the room were seven people who had travelled from Asia, in addition to several London traders in the field of Chinese antiquities.

“It was a classic auction room moment” said Sheppard of the anticipation and excitement when the hammer finally fell.

Bidding opened at €5,000 and within three minutes had climbed to €100,000 from a telephone bidder from Taipei in Taiwan. It stalled at this price – to see if online or attendees were prepared to offer more.

The Irish vendors, needless to say, are delighted with the outcome, and the Taiwanese buyer is unknown – as a first time bidder to the auction house – so it is hard to establish whether the bowls are destined for an institution or a private collection.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables