Joy as hammer falls on Chinese vases

A pair of Chinese amber vases, which achieved £22,000

A pair of Chinese amber vases, which achieved £22,000

An innocuous-looking pair of matching vases caused a great deal of excitement at an antiques auction in the Cotswolds today (Friday).

Pulled out of a box of miscellaneous items from a deceased estate by an eagle-eyed valuer, the Chinese amber vases were sold to a Beijing buyer for £22,000 – the top price of the day.

Standing at 21.5 cm, the vases were decorated with lion mask head handles, Chinese script amongst foliate scroll, and dog finials on the covers.

“It’s fair to say the vendors had no idea that the vases were valuable,” said auctioneer Philip Allwood of Moore Allen & Innocent in Cirencester. “To the untrained eye they look like pieces of plastic.”

With several good oriental lots in the catalogue, Chinese buyers were out in force – both in the saleroom and on phone lines from London and mainland China.

A pair of late 19th century moon flasks decorated with figures on horseback achieved £4,000; a circa 1900 rosewood framed table screen depicting an old man riding a deer made £2,600; a circa 1900 Chinese rosewood urn stand, 51cm tall, made £1,450; and a Kangxi blue and white vase from the 18th century, standing at 35cms, achieved £800. All were sold to Chinese bidders.

But it wasn’t just Chinese craftsmanship being celebrated at the sale. Eight phone lines were buzzing with bids for a 21cm tall 19th Century rosewood cased mantel clock by Barraud & Lund of London, which sold for £12,500 – the second-highest price of the day.

And pieces of furniture from the Arts & Crafts movement – of which the Cotswolds was the epicentre – also performed well.

A circa 1930 oak wardrobe by Frank Gardiner – an apprentice to Ernest Gimson one of the leading practitioners of the Arts and Crafts Revival – achieved £7,600, while a chest and washstand by the same craftsman achieved £4,200 and £2,200 respectively.

A circa 1914 single bed frame in walnut, said to have been designed by Ernest Gimson and made for his own use, was bought for £1,200, while a pass type ladder back chair in ash, with rush seat, designed in the manner of Gimson and said to have been made by the craftsman himself achieved £800.

While Arts and Crafts revival furniture makers were chiselling away in the Cotswolds, Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson of Kilburn was designing and making furniture in the Arts and Crafts style from his workshop on the North Yorkshire Moors.

A Mouseman octagonal occasional table in oak achieved £4,200, while two nests of occasional tables by Thompson achieved £1,750 and £1,650 respectively. All carried his trademark carved mouse motif.

In all, just under £150,000 of antiques were traded over 231 lots.

“Today’s results send a strong message to the owners of Chinese antiques or English Arts and Crafts furniture,” said Philip. “The market is buoyant. Now is a good time to consider selling them at auction.”

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