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Feat of Clay
Christie's Auction of Ceramics in Hong Kong, by Uma Nair


Ming underglaze copper-red vaseThis magnificent early Ming underglaze copper-red vase, 'yuhuchunping', realized an astonishing HK$78,520,000 (ca. US$10,207,600) in The Imperial Sale held at Christie's Hong Kong today (30 May 2006), setting a world auction record for any Ming porcelain. The vase was sold to Mr. Steve Wynn, Chairman & CEO of Wynn Resorts (Macau).

The pear-shaped vase, decorated with a peony scroll, is the only copper-red vase of the Hongwu period (1368-1398) in perfect condition to be offered at auction in more than 15 years.

The vase was originally inherited by a Scottish couple who used it as a lamp stand and did not know of its importance until they had seen a related example in a museum. When Christie’s London sold the vase in 1984, it realised a price £421,200 (US$367,500); then a record price for a Far Eastern work of art sold at Christie’s (see Notes to Editors).

Ceramics with underglaze copper-red decoration are very rare as copper mineral is known to be notoriously difficult to control during the firing process, resulting in a grey or almost colourless design. The failure rate was so high that the Jingdezhen potters had to plead with officials to reduce the order as requested by the Court. The peony vase on offer is one of those rare successes where the pattern is expertly executed and the colour, an attractive crush raspberry-red tone, is evenly distributed. As the potting of the neck is narrow and thin, many bottle vases of this shape have their necks repaired, or even top part of their necks replaced, but the present vase is extraordinarily in fine condition.

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