Chinese goddess figure by celebrated Ming potter smashes estimate at West Sussex auction

A Dehua blanc de chine figure of Guanyin sold at £39,000.

A Dehua blanc de chine figure of Guanyin sold for a surprise £39,000 – some 130 times the top estimate – at Bellmans in Wisborough Green, West Sussex last month.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Roland Arkell

Bidders on February 26 were confident the figure, although damaged and restored, was by He Chaozong, the celebrated late Ming potter who worked at the Dehua kilns in Fujian province during the early 17th century.

Although little is known of his life, He Chaozong is almost unique in Chinese ceramic history as a named artist in an industry characterised by anonymous large-scale production. Over a century later, he was revered by the Gazetteer of Quanzhou Prefecture of 1763 as the finest maker of Buddhist white porcelain statuary that were “transmitted and treasured everywhere under heaven”. His designs, robustly press moulded and then finely finished by hand, were perhaps influenced by the Christian ivory carvings produced in the Philippines or Goa.

Blanc de chine figures of Guanyin – the goddess of compassion, protector of mariners and bringer of sons – often carry the double gourd seal of He Chaozong. Many are honorific pieces produced in late 19th to the early 20th century.

The marks on the figure of Guanyin.

This particular figure, depicting Guanyin holding a scroll in her left hand and seated rajalilasana in peaceful contemplation, stands just over 10in 26cm) high. Marked to the back of the figure with a double gourd mark and a square seal, both the hands and scroll had some old restoration (now yellowing) and there were some more minor shallow chips to the edges of the base. It had come for sale from a private collection.

Estimated at £200-300, it sold to a bidder in the room at £39,000 (plus 22% buyer’s premium). It is going back to China.