‘It was one of those wonderful eureka moments,’ recounts Rosemary Scott, Chinese ceramics specialist and International Academic Director at Christie’s. ‘My colleague Jeremy Morgan was on a perfectly normal valuation visit when he walked into the drawing room and there, on the mantelpiece, he saw these vases. He couldn’t believe his eyes.’ As soon as he saw them Morgan knew they were something special, and he suggested to the owner of the house that she should sit down before he explained to her how rare and valuable they are. Just how valuable was confirmed on 9 May in London when the vases sold for £14,725,000.
Made in the 18th century for the court of the Qianlong Emperor, probably the greatest of all the Chinese art collectors, the vases feature his reign mark on the bottom. They had been bought in the early 1930s and inherited by the current owner, who, Scott explains, ‘had no idea that she had such amazingly important pieces in her collection.’