Chinese vase sells for a record £51.6m after lying for decades in a suburban Middlesex home
A world record has been smashed in a provincial British auction house after a household vase fetched £51million.
The 18th- century Chinese antique was found during a routine clear-out of a dusty attic in a three-bed semi-detached house on the outskirts of London.
The owners, a brother and sister who were clearing out their late parents’ modest home in suburban Pinner, West London, had to be taken out of the auction room in shock as frenzied bidding lasted half an hour.
Masterpiece: After casually sitting in a Middlesex home for decades, this 18th century Chinese vase last night sold for a record £51.6million
Rare: The elaborately-decorated 18th century vase was found during a routine clear-out. The family who lived in the house had no idea of its value
It ended with the hammer coming down at £51,600,000 – which includes the buyers’ premium – sold to an unknown Chinese purchaser.
Auctioneers at Bainbridges, more used to dealing with items under the £500 mark, had given it a guide price of £800,000 – more than enough for a comfortable retirement – alongside a few other knick-knacks the pair were selling, priced at £40 or £50.
What neither owner nor auctioneers banked on was the incredible interest from the Chinese market in buying back its relics, at any price.
When news of the find broke in the antiques world, the small auction house was inundated with queries from all over the globe.
Undervalued: The auction house's estimated value of between £800,000 and £1.2million fell way short of last night's sale price. The auction at Bainbridges (right) went on for half-an-hour, leading to the owners being taken out suffering from shock
The vase is from the Qianlong period, when the production of intricately designed china was at its peak, and the Emperor, who ruled from 1736 to 1795, was an avid connoisseur of art.
The bottom of the 16-inch high vase, thought to have been made in the 1740s, is marked with the Imperial seal.
The elaborately decorated and enamelled body, exquisitely painted in pastel yellow and blue, contains an inner vase that can be viewed through the perforations.
The reigning world record for Chinese porcelain is £20million, for a Qing dynasty vase in a Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong last month.
Hammer time: Auctioneer Peter Bainbridge holds up the gavel that broke during the sale last night
Bainbridges’ previous highest sale was £100,000 for a Ming enamel piece two years ago.
Helen Porter of Bainbridges said: ‘We are absolutely stunned. This must be one of the most important Chinese vases to be offered for sale this century.
‘In the 18th century it would have resided no doubt in the Chinese royal palace and was most certainly fired in the Imperial kilns. It is a piece of exquisite beauty. How it reached [London] is something we shall never know, and that it is in such fine condition is amazing. It is, quite simply, a masterpiece.’
She added: ‘We’re just a very typical local auction house so, as you can imagine, it was something of a surprise. This is the ultimate cash in the attic story.
‘The room was absolutely packed, there were several hundred people there.
‘The elderly woman whose house the vase was found in literally had to be taken outside as she was in so much shock.’
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