Song Dynasty Ru Brush Washer Sells For $37.7 Million

The dish, which has a diameter of just 13cm and would have been used to clean brushes, has a glowing, intense blue-green glaze and ‘ice crackle’ pattern.

It was offered by Sotheby’s with a guide price of £10 million ($13.24 million), but there was a fierce 20-minute bidding war and the dish eventually sold to an anonymous bidder for £28 million ($37.7 million).

The bowl’s buyer has chosen to remain anonymous.

Bidding began at around $10.2m, and the winning offer – from a phone bidder – was greeted with a round of applause.

Nicolas Chow, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, commented: ‘It’s a totally new benchmark for Chinese ceramics and we’ve made history with this piece today,’

A statement from the auction house said: ‘Today at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, a new world auction record for Chinese Ceramics was set when a highly important and extremely rare Ru guanyao brush washer sold for £28.2 million after a 20 minute bidding battle’.

‘While seemingly small and unobtrusive, these understated aesthetics reflect the calibre and meticulousness of its craftsmanship, a quiet metaphor of Chinese philosophy celebrated by erudite connoisseurs and scholars throughout time.’

Sotheby’s head of Chinese Art, Nicolas Chow, called the dish “extraordinarily rare”.

“We didn’t expect quite that price but we knew there was going to be a fight,” he said. “Every time there is a piece of Ru-ware, which is an extremely unusual occurrence, there’s always a battle, because it is the most talked about, the most celebrated of all wares in the history of Chinese ceramics.

“Most forged as well – I mean, I receive almost on a daily basis emails saying: ‘Oh, I’ve got a piece of Ru-ware, etc.’ But actually there are only four pieces of heirloom Ru-ware [that] exist in private hands.”

It is most likely the dish was made between 1086 and 1106 and it is extraordinarily rare for a Ru vessel to be sold at auction.

There are thought to be just 87 pieces of Ru official ware in existence and only six have been sold publicly since 1940.

Ru ware has an almost mythical status which is attributed to its short-lived production period, generally believed to not have exceeded 20 years.

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