Cambridge sale suggests no slowdown in Chinese auctions despite global challenges

Standing 10½ inches (27cm) and dated around 1920-30, the jovial god had some slight factory marks to the glazed rear but against an estimate of £300-500 went to a buyer private from the mainland at £5500.

“There doesn’t seem to be a slowdown in demand due to the situation in Ukraine or the slowing Chinese economy,” said Cheffins Asian art expert Adam Schoon. “In fact, about 80% of the Asian art section sold directly to mainland China.”

Among these purchases were a Kangxi brush pot and a Buddhist stone head possibly from the 6th/7th century.

The 5¾ inch (14.5 cm) tall famille verte brush pot, painted with a figure in a pavilion watching a punt on a lake, had a crudely glued piece on the back and was sold ` ‘as found’ but took an estimate of six times £3200.


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A 6th/7th century Laozi black stone head – £4,800 at Cheffins.

The 3¾ inch (9.5cm) black stone head of Laozi, although with full documentation since being imported from Hong Kong in 2003, would need further verification by buyers before being exported outside the Kingdom UK or EU. However, against an estimate of £150–250, it sold to a dealer in Beijing for £4,800.

best-selling jade


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Qing Jade Archer Ring – £11,000 at Cheffins.

The Chinese underbids were beaten by a London collector to the best-selling: a Qing archer’s ring in sheep fat jade.

The 18th or 19th century Qing ring, of the type of the guards to protect the thumbs of archers, was worked in relief with a tea pavilion and rows of calligraphy. In very good condition, it was estimated between £400 and £600 and sold online for £11,000.

The disappointment of the section was a famille rose vase with a Jiaqing seal mark and probably from the period (1796-1820). Featuring dragon and lingzhi handles, the 12½-inch (31 cm) tall ovoid vase was the second-most-viewed lot on Cheffins’ website before the sale, but on the day bidding dipped below the estimate £40,000-60,000.

It was not, Schoon believes, because of the geopolitical situation as some have feared.

“The change in the market that some have experienced is mainly due to Chinese buyers becoming more and more cautious,” he said.

“They really make sure to get the full backstory of any item and there’s a huge weight on provenance. Perhaps the vase was slightly overstated because it lacked the totally concrete provenance that are looking for today’s Chinese buyers.

Best West


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An 18th/early 19th century Aubusson tapestry of verdure – £9500 at Cheffins.

It was the West rather than the East that fetched the highest prices in the June 22-23 sale that included five-figure charts (see last week art market, GTA no. 2552).

That said, the West’s attraction to chinoiserie was evident.

A late 18th/early 19th century Aubusson tapestry of verdure, after Jean Pillement from the chinoiserie series is an example.

Entitled At the pagoda and the Quiver (At the Pagoda and the Quiver), the 9 ft. 5 in. x 15 ft. 7 in. (2.86 x 4.78 m) tapestry depicted flora and fauna in a river landscape and was signed Monsieur d’Aubusson.

It sold to an Australian online bidder for a double estimate of £9,500.


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A 19th/early 20th century bronze Mercury after Giambologna – £26,000 at Cheffins.

East Anglian country houses provided much of the fresh market quality, helping 706 lots sell for a total of £610,000 and a win rate of 86%.

Leading the two days was a 19th/early 20th century bronze model of Mercury after Giambologna, part of a shipment of 100 lots from Wood Hall in Hilgay, Norfolk.

The 6 ft 1 in (1.86 m) high bronze on a 2 ft 10 in (87 cm) high blackened and gilt metal Victorian plinth was in good overall condition.

It more than doubled expectations when it sold for £26,000 to a UK private buyer against trade competition.


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Country house wrought iron walkway – £17,000 at Cheffins.

Removed from Exning House near Newmarket during the Second World War and stored in a barn at Landwade Hall Estate in Suffolk, where they were recently rediscovered, were two sets of wrought iron country house doors.

Probably 18th century, each had a centrally opening arched doorway and smaller side panels topped with scrolled arched pediments.

Aimed at separate UK private buyers, the 14ft x 14ft 8in (4.32 x 4.5m) gates estimated between £3,000 and £5,000 fetched £17,000. The others, slightly smaller at 12ft 9in x 13ft 6in (3.89 x 4.1m) and estimated between £2,000 and £4,000, cost £11,000.

Refectory table


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A 17th century oak refectory table – £11,000 at Cheffins.

The finest piece of furniture was an oak refectory table from the end of the 17th century.

With a four cleated plank top above a guilloché frieze on four turned ball-and-net shaped legs, the 2.8 m (10 ft 2 in) long table estimated between 1,500 and 2,500 £ was sold to a British private buyer for £11,000.

Most of the furniture met with the familiar response of high three-figure or low four-figure bids for decent 18th and 19th century pieces, with the occasional pleasant surprise.

A large George I elbow chair in walnut with arched back, splat vase and shepherd’s arm at £150-250 selling for £4400, and a late 19th century Chinese wood and fabric three-panel folding screen, 5ft 4 in x 5 ft 5 in (1.63 x 1.65 m), took an estimate of six times £3400.

Laura J. Boyer