Rhapsody in Green

By , 5th April 2016

Made under watchful eye of the third Qing emperor, a porcelain vase valued at just £12 in the 1950s is expected to bring over £20,000 when it is sold at auction in April.

The celadon-glazed Yongzheng (1722-35) mark and period vase comes for sale at Mallams in Cheltenham from the family of Charles George, a knowledgeable mid-20th century collector of art and antiques.

Meticulously documenting his purchases in a handwritten inventory, George recorded the inclusion of this vase in the 1947 Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition of celadon wares (prepared by founder member and expert on Chinese glazes Arthur L Hetherington), and in 1952 estimated its worth to be between £12-15.

During his 13-year reign, the emperor Yongzheng personally supervised the production of a profusion of new shapes and colours at the ceramic kilns at Jingdezhen – many inspired by ancient ceramics preserved in the Imperial collection. Yongzheng insisted on the highest levels of craftsmanship.

While deceptively modest in appearance, Imperial quality porcelain from this period typically combines restraint with technical perfection.

The form of this 9.5in (23.5cm) vase, moulded to the base with bands of chrysanthemum petals and to the neck with ribs in imitation of bamboo, is inspired by a Longquan prototype from the Southern Song period.

The foot bears a six character Yongzheng mark painted in blue in zhuanshu script under the watery celadon glaze with a textured bluish tone that is so characteristic of the period. It still retains the Oriental Ceramic Society label and the exhibit number 130 to its base.

The price of mark and period ceramics made for the Qing court has escalated in the last decade.

Charles George’s £12 vase now carries an estimate of £20,000-30,000.

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