Following 12 minutes of bidding at Sotheby’s New York on September 23, it sold for $7m/£5.4m ($8.3m with premium).
Its opulent decoration of gold, silver and patterned glass beads that suggests a high-status (probably royal) owner, was matched by a blue-chip century-old provenance. It came for sale by descent from Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1949), the Belgian industrialist best known today as a key patron of Josef Hoffman.
The piece, visible in a photograph of Stoclet Palace taken in 1917, was one of 28 Chinese works of art lent by Stoclet to the seminal Royal Academy International Exhibition of Chinese Art at Burlington House in 1935. It appeared as an illustrated lot in the exhibition catalogue and retains its RA paper label to the base.
The vessel is one of only three vessels surviving from the period with decoration of this sophistication. Sotheby’s described it as in excellent overall condition, with the inlays intact and well retained. A handle had been repaired and the surface cleaned and waxed, most likely in the early 20th century.
It had been imported for sale from continental Europe in the months before a 7.5% tax on Chinese goods brought into the US was applied. The estimate was $2.5m-3.5m.
It is thought this Asian art series could be the last sales to avoid the tariffs levied as part of the ongoing US-China trade war.