‘A quite extraordinary day’ as sleeping Asian bronzes bring multi-estimate sums in regions

Two under-catalogued Sino-Tibetan bronzes illuminated the regional saleroom scene with multi-estimate sums in the final days of November.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Roland Arkell

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Worcestershire’s John Goodwin enjoyed what auctioneer Chris Maulkin called “a quite extraordinary day” at the Three Counties Showground on November 30 with the sale of a handful of Chinese works of art from two local deceased estates. Neither client had “an inkling of value or idea of provenance”.

A 6in (16cm) high copper alloy figure of a bodhisattva seated in lalitasana on a double-lotus base and studded with coral and turquoise was deemed 16th or 17th century.

Estimated at £50-100, it was contested in the room by two determined Far Eastern bidders to £72,000 (plus 12.5% buyer’s premium).

More was to come. Bids on a finely cast 5in (13cm) bronze censer and stand, estimated at £30-50, opened on the internet at £8000 and jumped immediately to £34,000 before it finally sold in the room at £87,000. A candidate for ‘sleeper of the year’, the price was 2175 times the mid-estimate.

It is thought to belong to a small but well-documented group of 17th century Chinese bronze vessels bearing apocryphal stylised Xuande (1425-35) reign marks that in form are often inspired by Song dynasty ceramics.

The buyer, one of many specialists who had made the journey to view in person, was a London dealer bidding on behalf of a Chinese client.

Norfolk Dalai Lama

Three days earlier, at Keys in Aylsham on November 27, an 8½in (22cm) high gilt bronze lama sold for £56,000 (plus 20% premium). Nine phones were booked with the final bid tendered by a UK phone buyer against the internet well above the £800-1200 guide.

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Key to its significance is an inscription in Tibetan that – according to other examples on the market – references the lineage of the subject and likely identifies him as the fourth Dalai Lama, Yontan Gyatso (1589-1617).

The bronze, set with turquoise cabochons, retained its original based plate engraved with a double vajra.