Saturday, 28 August 2021

A Lockdown Treasure

This tiny enamel pot, thought to be a very small teapot by the owner, had been boxed up in his garage ready to be taken to a local charity. It had belonged to the owners grandfather and assumed to have been acquired whilst he was stationed in the Far East during the Second World War. During lockdown the owner was sorting through the box and decided that may be it looked a bit too special for a charity shop, so he took it to be checked out by a local auctioneer before parting with it. The auctioneer noticed straightaway that it appeared to be 18th century Chinese and could possibly be worth £10,000 or even more. However, whilst researching the pot further the auctioneer realised that it was almost identical to two wine ewers that had been used in the palace of Emperor Qianlong, both of which are now housed in museums. 

Emperor Qianlong

Each of the three wine ewers have identical Qianlong reign marks on the bottom 

One of the ewers is held in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, and the other is in the Palace Museum in Beijing, China.

At this stage the price of the ewer was rapidly revised upwards - maybe it could even fetch £100,000 to £200,000.  

Emperor Qianlong is considered to be one of the greatest Chinese emperors ; did it grace his palace, or could he have even handled it!

A British valet who accompanied his diplomatic master to the Qing court in 1793 described the emperor thus:

The Emperor is about five feet ten inches in height, and of a slender but elegant form ; his complexion is comparatively fair, though his eyes are dark ; his nose is rather aquiline, and the whole of his countenance presents a perfect regularity of feature, which by no means, announce the great age he is said to have attained ; his person is attracting, and his deportment accompanied by an affability, which, without lessening the dignity of the prince, evinces the amiable character of the man. His dress consisted of a loose robe of yellow silk, a cap of black velvet with a red ball on the top, and adorned with a peacock's feather, which is the peculiar distinction of mandarines of the first class. He wore silk boots embroidered with gold, and a sash of blue girded his waist.

Emperor Qianlong in ceremonial armour on horseback
The price of the small wine ewer turned out to be drastically under estimated, in the end it went for £390,000. It is most likely that it has now returned back home to China.

images of the Emperor and his description courtesy wiki.


45 comments:

  1. A treasure indeed! What an exquisite piece, and how fortunate the owner had it valued. We could all dream of finding such a piece in the attic :)

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    1. I know that there are no treasures in our attic Patricia as it was completely empty when we moved in.

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    2. Don't give up so easily--treasures are often hidden in secret compartments and the like! --Jim

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    3. Sadly there are no secret compartments in our attic.

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  2. What a fascinating piece and tale. So lucky it didn't go to the charity shop.

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    1. I am sure that the owner breathed a sigh of relief at not having given it away to a charity shop.

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  3. This is the kind of find that makes the "Antique Road Show" such compelling television for so many. The teapot we use now is stamped, "Made in China" but somehow I don't think it's quite the same! Great story, Rosemary, and well told with the historical background.

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    1. I thought that I would include an image of the underside just in case anybody happened to have a piece of Chinese pottery or enamel work with the same markings - sorry that yours did not match David.

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  4. Gosh, don't I wish I'd found that in a car boot sale or charity shop!! That sort of money is life-changing isn't it?

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    1. I think that it was in fact a very life-changing sum of money for this particular owner.

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  5. That's the sort of thing I like finding in charity shops.

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    1. Oh! lucky you Tom - never found anything of value myself, but they are apparently out there.

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    2. Nothing quite so valuable as that, but I have had my little moments.

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  6. Hello Rosemary, It is fun to read about such finds. We can't all be experts on Qian Long enamels, but we can recognize general signs of quality and know when something is worth checking out. By the way, millions of Chinese antique fakes have those identical Qian Long marks, so real expertise is required. Incidentally, I have a healthy suspicion of such lucky finds. Sometimes the object is genuine but the "sudden discovery" story is questionable.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - the grandson owner of this property was an ordinary working man who would have had absolutely no knowlege of antiquities whatsoever. I am always surprised when I see people on antique programmes who have absolutely no idea of either the value, the period or the quality of the articles that they may have brought in to be assessed.
      I can't answer the question re: the sudden find, as I do not know the details apart from what I have written, but the article would certainly have been authenticated by leading experts in their field.

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  7. Wow, I better check through my garage sale junk to see if I have one of those too, LOL!

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  8. How beautiful, and so glad that your friend had someone evaluate it. Thanks for details of the Emperor too!

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    1. I don't actually know the person involved Barbara, I just know the story. He lives in my childhood county and went to an autioneer who I actually know about.

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  9. Dearest Rosemary,
    What a true treasure unveiled here! Good that there are real experts that can assess its originality and real value.
    Locally here, we have some estate sales people and to my knowledge, none of them have any true knowledge of real antiques. It takes a lot of knowledge about history and the making of pieces related to each period.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - you are correct, if you need information about anything special that you own you really should consult an expert within that field. Estate Agents here simply deal with property - our Auctioneers have experts working for them in a multitude of fields eg. silver, ceramics, paintings, furniture etc, and if necessary they will consult known influential people at Christies or Sotherbys.

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  10. That's amazing, hope it goes to a museum where many can enjoy it - what a fabulous thing to own and just imagine how much that sale price will help the gentleman in his old age to have a comfortable lifestyle.

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    1. I imagine that it is possible that it is back in China again Betty. There are so many billionaires living there now.
      When we visited China in the early 80s everyone was as poor as church mice and nobody owned a car, just a bike.

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    1. It was lucky for him to ask an experts opinion.

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  12. You are a TERRIFIC STORYTELLER, Rosemary! I just love to open up your site and see what you have to share!
    I guess from the times I've watched "Antique Roadshow" we all hope to find a treasure like this some day!

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    1. I am very touched by your kind comment Mary - thank you, but I am also delighted that you enjoyed the read. When watching an Antique Roadshow it is frequently surprising to see just how many treaures people have hidden away in their homes often without realising their value.

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  13. Anytime I've watched any antique type programmes in the last few years the prices for old items do not even make the experts valuation in many instances,despite obvious highly elaborate carved details or months of effort in the case of grand statement furniture, largely due to the internet, so it's nice to see something that goes up in value for a change. Personally though, leaving the money aside,if I did see it in a charity shop it would not jump out 'buy me' and I'd pick something else every time, more to my taste.

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    1. If I had seen it then my reaction would have been the opposite to yours. I love fine enamel work and do have some Chinese enamel objects which we purchased whilst over there.

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  14. What a wonderful story, Rosemary! The little ewer is very pretty, so it could so easily have just been kept without ever recognising its worth, with a Grandpa's Souvenir label forevermore.

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    1. I have very few objects from my grandparents, but what I have I treasure.

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  15. My goodness thank goodness the owner didn't venture off with it elsewhere, I bet they were surprised at the teapots value..

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    1. He was a man who would have had absolutely no idea about the object whatsoever.

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  16. What a mad world we live in! £390,000? That's enough to pay the wages of a Premier League footballer for a whole week!

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    1. I agree - crazy. Mind you, I would rather have this little wine ewer than watch a Premier League football player for a whole week.

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  17. What a fabulous story, thanks Rosemary.
    I don't think any of my Made in China stamped items are worth much at all - isn't everything made there now? Bob just asked me if we have anything perhaps worth money? I said I didn't think so other than perhaps the Queen Victoria ring given to my mum by Sir Winston Churchill's daughter Sarah! They became friends while serving together in the RAF during WWII!
    Hope all is well this Sunday - will email you soon!
    Hugs - Mary

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    1. Your ring has a very interesting history which would certainly add a premium to its value.
      There is definitely a feeling of Autumn in the air here. Tomorrow is my birthday so we are off out for a jolie to try and forget all of the gloomy news.

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    2. August 31 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY dearest Rosemary - thinking of you and hoping today is wonderful!
      Hugs - Mary & Bob XX

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    3. Thank you very much Mary & Bob. We have been to Cheltenham today, but tomorrow we are having a treat. Will write about it later X💜

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  18. What an amazing story. How fortunate that the owner had the piece valued. And how wonderful that it will likely rejoin its partners in China. It would be interesting to know how it traveled so far.

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    1. Day after day brings such terrible news, so it is good to learn about something to take our minds elsewhere. It would be interesting to know more about its history and its travels.

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  19. Wow what a great story! I can assure you that nothing that I took to the charity shop was worth that!
    Someone said it was your birthday? Happy Birthday. It is also my daughter’s.

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    1. Thank you very much Janey - I was really interested to learn that it is your daughter's birthday too. I have only ever met one other person who shared the 31st August with me.

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