Chinese art treasures found in Scottish country house
The Qianlong mark and period-painted enamel lotus vase is thought to have been at Balcarres House in the East Neuk for generations after being acquired in the 19th century by the earls of Crawford and Balcarres.
It topped a “behind closed doors” Asian art online sale staged by Lyon & Turnbull last week.
The Edinburgh firm said the auction had gone ahead following the success of similar sales during the lockdown, although its traditional series of May sales in London have been postponed until later this year. More antiques and works of art from Balcarres House will also be sold.
The firm said more than 500 bidders registered interest in the sale, with auctioneer and managing director Gavin Strang taking bids across four international platforms and bilingual telephones via video-conferencing software.
Grace Tu, the firm’s head of Asian art, said: “The sale attracted a great level of interest from a wide range of international markets, especially in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, India, the USA, Canada and the UK.
“Our internet bidding system was key to the success of this sale, regardless of the lockdown restriction.”
Lyon & Turnbull said the UK Government was expected to permit auction houses to re-open in England from 1 June but the situation in Scotland and the rest of the UK was “unconfirmed”.
The Qianlong vase, from 1736-95, was one of 14 lots from Balcarres sold in the auction.
The 27cm ornament has a delicate floral design against a vibrant yellow background, of a type made in the imperial workshops in Beijing.
Research by specialists revealed that holes on either side of the neck of the vase suggested it once had a pair of bronze dragon-shaped handles.
These may have been similar to those which adorn two pairs of enamel vases of this type in the collection of the National Palace Museum in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei.
The vase is thought to have been among the collection of Chinese literature and art amassed by the 25th Earl of Crawford and Balcarres (1812-80) and his son, the 26th earl (1847-1913).
The collection was since distributed among several British museums and other institutions.
The Balcarres estate has been home to the Lindsay family since 1595.
However, Lyon & Turnbull said Scotland’s country houses remained the repository of important Far Eastern works of art thanks to the country’s key role in trade with China in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Other items from the collection auctioned in the sale included a Kangxi blue and white cylindrical form brush pot, or bitong, which fetched £13,750, compared with its £500-700 estimate.
A pair of 11cm diameter bowls decorated with bamboo shoots, which had been in the possession of the same London family for more than a century, sold for £23,750.
A late 19th- or early 20th-century white jade table screen carved on one side with a scholar and two young attendants walking in a mountainous landscape sold for £16,250.
A wine cup with an underglaze blue design of five dragons fetched £25,000.
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