It’s always advisable to declutter ones home on occasion. Partly, this is just to make you feel a little better and more comfortable in your own surroundings. Tidying up is often proclaimed to be good for the soul. In addition, however, you may just find that your home is hosting unexpected treasures.
That was certainly the case for one couple in West London, who learned that a matching pair of Chinese vases that had gathered dust on their mantle dated back to the Qianlong Emperor. Agreeing to send the vases to auction, the value was truly spectacular – the couple had been sitting on a slice of Chinese history for decades.
The couple called in an antiques expert for a valuation of their possessions, as they were planning a house move. Among the items valued were two Chinese vases, which were an inheritance gift obtained in the early 1950s. Ever since, the vases had sat atop a fireplace. They were deemed to be an aesthetically pleasing decoration, and nothing more.
A professional antique dealer immediately suspected otherwise. He took a closer look at the vases, dating them to the 18th Century. This was based in part on the design – each vase stood at eight inches in height and was decorated with the image of lotus blooms and scrolls over a ruby red body. In addition, a piece of poetry from the aforementioned Qianlong Emperor was inscribed inside each vase.
The vases were immediately placed on the auction market, as the antique expert believed they would be of interest to collectors of Chinese porcelain. Estimating a value of around £30,000, he was actually quite incorrect.
Artefacts that date back to this era are rare and hard to come by, so the auction house opened the bidding at £20,000. Within moments, the price had leapt to five times this sum. By the time the auction concluded fifteen minutes later, the agent of a wealthy collector had defeated eight competitors with a winning bid of £260,000. By the time premiums and fees were added, the vases sold for an eye-watering £324,500.
Qianlong is widely regarded as a fine ruler of China, comparable to his celebrated grandfather the Kangxi Emperor, and one of the longest-serving leaders of his nation. The Qianlong Emperor was also renowned for his love of art and was believed to have personally commissioned on the design and creation of the vases.
This is why they hosted the poem penned by the Emperor himself, who is claimed to have been inspired by the sight of a wall vase while on a hunting trip. The presence of this prose is not unique. Around 138 vases hosted in the Palace Museum of Beijing host similar scripture. All the same, to find such objects in a suburban home is rare indeed.
Naturally, everybody was thrilled with the outcome. The winning bidder now boasts rare and valuable items in his personal collection. The auctioneer took a pleasant commission for their trouble as the vases sold for more than anticipated. And the former owners of the vase, moving due to downsizing, received a sum far beyond their wildest dreams. Surely enough to counter any sting of sentimentality that may have arisen from parting with an inherited gift.