A widow whose late husband unknowingly bought an ancient and valuable paperweight 🙁 while teaching in Hong Kong more than 50 years ago has seen the item sell at auction for £170,000.
Her husband was a lecturer at the University of Hong Kong when he bought the innocuous-looking miniature figure for HK$900, roughly £70, from an antiques shop in the city.
Made of jade, the artwork measures 8cm across and depicts a reclining greyish-green horse, dating as far back as 1368, during the early Ming dynasty of the Chinese empire.
The item was sold along with its original receipt from a shop called Dunt King, in Hong Kong, dated December 14, 1962.
Its value was unknown to its owner, who is from Cheltenham but did not want to be identified.
And the expensive item sat in her china cabinet for more than five decades before she decided to take it to auction.
She initially took the piece to be sold because she feared it would be stolen but didn’t think it would be worth a lot of money.
To her amazement, auctioneers valued the piece somewhere between £20,000 to £30,000.
When it went up for auction on Tuesday, she couldn’t believe her eyes when it drew six bidders worldwide who were eager to get their hands on the valuable work of art.
The item, which was among several pieces to go under the hammer at Mallams Auctioneers in Grosvenor Street, Cheltenham, was sold to a bidder in Hong Kong and will be flown back home.
After tax, the successful buyer will have paid in the region of £210,000 – which makes up more than a quarter of the auction’s takings on the day.
Auction house director Robin Fisher believes the jade horse was a remarkable find.
He said: “I must admit I did not expect it to make as much as it has. On a good day, I thought it might have sold for around £40,000 but not as much as it did.
“When China was under a communist government at the time it was bought, the British were governing the economy in Hong Kong.
“That meant a lot of antiques were available to buy there and clearly there was not a big market with China.
“There was high demand for art from the Far East here in the UK and a lot of people would buy antiques to bring home.
“Over the years, there has been a massive rise in Chinese buyers, especially for art like this piece and that is why we get people who come to us with items which their relatives, who worked abroad, may have brought back with them.”
There are other similar examples on display the UK, including a small horse figure in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge.
A similar jade horse was also sold at Sothebys, in Hong Kong, on April 8 last year.