'Durrow Dragon' soars to unexpected heights


A matchbox-sized piece of carved Chinese jade made €630,000 at auction in Co Laois yesterday – the highest price ever paid for an antique at auction in Ireland.

Sheppard’s auctioneers had expected the “Qing period white jade seal” – used to stamp documents in imperial China – to sell for between €4,000 and €6,000. However the arrival of Chinese bidders in the village of Durrow yesterday morning suggested there might be a surprise in store.

The seal attracted an opening bid of just €2,000 but then a bidding battle quickly developed between two bidders in China – one on the telephone from Beijing, the other on the internet from the city of Jingdezhen. Bidding crept up in increments of €2,000 and lasted for 20 minutes before the hammer fell, to applause, at €630,000.

The jade seal is carved into the shape of a dragon and has already been dubbed “the Durrow Dragon”.

Auctioneer Philip Sheppard described the result as “sensational” and “more than double the previous Irish auction record for Asian art”.

Prof Alan Fletcher of UCD, an expert on Chinese art who attended the auction, said the bidding battle was by “two people who desperately wanted it and had a lot of money”.