Auction house to sell remainder of Chinese collection


THE OWNERS of a Chinese imperial vase which sold for €110,000 at a Co Laois auction on Tuesday – a record-breaking price for ceramics at an Irish antiques sale – plan to sell the remainder of an inherited collection of oriental porcelain.

While the Co Carlow family wish to retain strict anonymity, the auctioneers acting on their behalf said they were unaware of the vase’s historical significance and its value when it was consigned for sale. The family did not attend the auction and missed seeing the vase sell for 1,000 times its estimated value.

Durrow-based auctioneers Sheppards said the owners were “shocked but also delighted and chuffed” by the sale. They were also coming to terms with the potential value and importance of the remaining items in the collection.

The family inherited the collection from two sisters who have since died, who had emigrated to the United States in the 1940s. The women lived and worked there for many years and amassed a collection of ceramics which they brought back to Ireland. The vase may have been bought in the city of Philadelphia.

A selection of about 20 pieces from the collection was included in the general sale of furniture and collectibles at Sheppards Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois, earlier this week. Most of the Chinese lots, including the vase, had pre-sale estimates of €100-€150.

However, international collectors who had spotted the vase on the internet recognised it as part of the personal collection of 18th-century Chinese emperor Qianlong. They travelled to Co Laois and sparked frenzied bidding, which resulted in the vase being sold for €110,000. A separate lot of two vases, with the same estimate, sold for €41,000.

Both lots were acquired by a London antiques dealer who outbid the wife of a collector in China, who had travelled from Beijing in a quest to buy the vase.

Auctioneer Philip Sheppard said the vase was “part of the first tranche” of the collection and the remainder would be sold at a future auction in Durrow.

The purchaser of the vase said he expected to make “a handsome profit” on its resale. Richard Peters said from his shop on Kensington Church Street that he was “absolutely delighted” with his purchase and described the vase as “incredibly perfect and a very special piece”. He will offer it for resale shortly and is confident it will appeal to collectors of oriental ceramics “especially in London and China”.

Mr Peters is “likely” to return to Co Laois for the sale of the rest of the Carlow collection.

Arabella Bishop, the head of Sotheby’s Ireland, was “excited about what happened in Durrow”. The Chinese market was “especially strong at the moment – particularly for good, fresh pieces, particularly those with an imperial connection”.

Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library, which has a world-class collection of oriental manuscripts, paintings and rare books, also houses a small collection of imperial Chinese porcelain which is available for public viewing “by appointment”.

Acting curator Laura Muldowney, said while she “could not comment on values”, thought the vase sold in Durrow “looks like a lovely piece” based on photographs. She said the Chester Beatty collection did not have any porcelain from the period of Emperor Qianlong but had pieces from the era of his grandfather, Emperor Kangxi.