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Cracked Ming dish valued at €1,200 is sold for €1.8m

Cracked Ming dish valued at €1,200 is sold for €1.8m
A CRACKED Chinese Ming Dynasty porcelain dish – from a house in Northern Ireland and first valued at just €1,200 – sold at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong yesterday for €1.8 million.

But only five months ago, the same dish – which has two hairline cracks – was sold at an Adam’s auction in Slane Castle, Co Meath, for €310,000, a figure then regarded as phenomenal and more than 100 times the estimate. The original owners – a family in Co Derry – were said at the time to be “delighted” with that price.

The dish – which measures just 10 inches in diameter – was bought by a specialist dealer in London, who then consigned it to Sotheby’s for yesterday’s sale.

Sotheby’s described the lot as a 15th-century “magnificent blue and white ‘dragon’ dish” and assigned it an estimate of between HK$10 million and HK$15 million. However the buyer paid HK$18.8 million (€1.8 million).

Commenting on the resale of the dish, which has leapt six-fold in value since the auction at Slane Castle last October, James O’Halloran, managing director of Adam’s in Dublin, said it was “exceptionally difficult to anticipate what people will pay for Chinese porcelain”.

The dish was made at the royal kilns of Jingdezhen in the reign of the Emperor Xuande (1426-1435) and is decorated with an image of a five-clawed dragon – a symbol of imperial power. It is extremely rare. The only other known example is a smaller version in a museum in Taipei – the capital of Taiwan. The dish was brought home by a member of a Co Derry family who served with the British army in China during the late Victorian colonial era.

On his death, the family, who have not been named, had his belongings valued for probate in November 1985. Valuers from London assessed the dish as worth “approximately £1,000”.

Yesterday’s sale is the latest example of the extraordinary sums being paid for oriental ceramics since newly-rich Chinese collectors embarked on a frenzied spending spree. However, Chinese porcelain is notoriously difficult to value and major surprises have become a phenomenon at auctions worldwide.

Auctioneers say many old Irish houses have items brought home from China – especially those where a family member had served the British empire. At a recent Mealy’s auction in Co Kilkenny, a Beijing collector paid €75,000 for a 19th-century carved rhinoceros horn; and in Co Laois, Sheppard’s achieved €69,000 for a pair of ceremonial chairs.

Source: Michael Parsons