The Recipe for a Record
admin 12 October 2015
Auction 240 Catalogue / Fine Chinese Works of Art, 15.12.2015


The usual May auction has been a great success for Cambi Auction House Oriental Art department; thanks to a little less than 400 lots, the total hammer price was 4,540,000 euros, buyer’s premium included. The choice to hold, for the first time, either the pre-sale exhibition and the auction at Milan headquarters, turned out to be winning, making the sale even easier for the international dealers. But not only this; also the luck to find excellent pieces played a role, thanks to the refined selection by Dario Mottola. So, unlike the previous catalogues, a very high selection of the objects has been made in advance, in order to show only the best of what Italian collectors had to propose to our clients. It’s a hard task, but crucial given the new market trends: average objects no longer show the appeal they once had, whereas eager is the interest for rare and valuable objects.

Issues in Oriental Art market do not reside in sales, but rather in the preliminary work on the catalogue, that implies the collection of high quality objects able to appeal also the most important collectors in the field. We can proudly say that the challenge has been fully achieved.
So, don’t change the winning formula; therefore, according to the trend of our last sales, we presented a catalogue for coral sculptures exclusively. This is our proud boast that, from two years now, Cambi is the only auction house in the world able to offer a wide and top quality selection of these wonderful objects. Among others, it is worth remembering – in the sale held on 26 May 2015 – a big Guanyin sculpture, 28,5 centimetres high and 1.180 grams in weight, sold for 31,000 euros, and a group from the 19th century, featured by an intense red colour, depicting Guanyin and children, made 22,940 euros.
Excellent were the results achieved with the catalogue Fine Chinese Works of Art: a big ruyi carved in white and russet jade from Qianlong period (1736–1795), perfectly preserved, made 30,000 euros.


Notevole è stato anche l’interesse suscitato da un incensiere imperiale in bronzo dorato a guisa di cane di Pho sormontato da quaglia e con innesti in pietre dure, sempre del periodo Qianlong, venduto per 140.000 euro, e un meraviglioso vaso finemente scolpito in giada bianca con motivi d’ispirazione arcaica del XIX secolo, che è stato acquistato per 99.500 euro. Non sono state da meno le porcellane; quelle della Dinastia Qing, e in particolare modo dell’Ottocento, hanno infatti ancora oggi un’attrattiva magnetica sui collezionisti.Questa vendita poteva vantare anche un terzo catalogo esclusivo, dedicato a una unica opera d’arte. Un lotto che ha indubbiamente dominato su tutti gli altri: una rarissima e straordinaria moon flask ottagonale in porcellana bianca e blu, della Dinastia Qing, marca del periodo Yongzheng (1723-1735). Un pezzo unico, realizzato per il palazzo dell’Imperatore.

An imperial censer, in gilt bronze in shape of Pho dog with a quail on top and with semi-precious stones, again from the Qianlong period, aroused great interest, making 140,000 euros, as well as a wonderful vase finely carved in white jade with motifs inspired by archaic tradition from the 19th century, sold for 99,500 euros. Porcelains performed very well too; those form Quing Dynasty, and especially those from the 19th century, still today are very appealing to collectors.
This sale could boast also a third exclusive catalogue, dedicated to a single piece of art. A lot that indubitably stood out: a very rare and extraordinary octagonal moon flask in blue and white porcelain from Quin Dynasty, Yongzheng period mark (1723–1735). A definitely unique object, made for the Emperor palace. It is extremely difficult to find big vases from Yongzheng period, especially in octagonal shape; this shape of moon flask is part of the most innovative ceramics from Qing period. The drawings follow the theme of “birds in landscape,” an independent theme if compared to previous periods – in fact, there are no examples from Ming period – but very popular at the very beginning of 18th century.

All over the world, there are only two vases like this: one, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, and the other housed at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Unlike these two, the flask sold at Cambi showed some breakings on the neck, that were covered by an inexperienced restorer. In order be fair towards our clients, our expert Mottola made the decision to remove the restoring, therefore showing the vase as it really is, with no lacks but with clear cracks on the mouth.
An untrained eye could say: “It’s a broken vase, what kind of interests should this arouse?”
During the auction preview at our gallery in Dover St., this “broken vase”, sized nearly 48 centimetres, saw a continuous “pilgrimage” and, with no immodesty, we can say that it was the star of London Oriental Art week. The most important buyers of the world, dealers, collectors and art experts came to our gallery and, in a sort of religious contemplation, went into ecstasies over our moon flask. They spent hours seated at the table, examining any detail with torches and magnifying glasses. Not yet satisfied, they came back on the following days, two, three times; they took pictures and selfies to send to friends. Walking in Bond St. you couldn’t hear anything but talking about this, everybody was carrying a copy of our catalogue and we were recognized as “those of the flask”. It was no surprise to come back to Milan and be flooded with requests of participation on this lot; but, as it is an élite object, not all were invited to the bid.
And finally the auction day is there.


We felt that something great was about to happen even at the bids previous to the flask. All Cambi Team stood around the telephone operators desk and, as soon as lot 255 got closer, the tension in the room raised. Matteo Cambi hammers the last object of the porcelains, here we go!, he catches a breath and says: “we will hammer now the moon flask from Yongzheng period. We would like to remind you that only those who were invited can participate in this auction, therefore I kindly ask you to use the paddle dedicated to this lot.” On the side of the auctioneer, the image of the flask stands out on the screens. In the room, the audience switch on the video cameras of their Smartphones, whereas some ten of us put on the alert the clients on phone; the auction is about to start. There’s only the time to check that all the lines are well connected… and we go. The very first minutes are spent in a pressing of bids, one after the other, up to making 1,000,000 euros.
From there on, a never-ending second of stop, some buyers give up, other wait to see the next higher bid, and at that moment, enters the contest a phone that up to then was only listening. With only three bids we have the new owner of the much-desired vase. The hammer knocked down: “Congratulations, it’s yours!”, and the room explodes in a spontaneous applause. Once again, Cambi makes the new record of sale for an object of Oriental Art: 2,400,000 euros.
We would say: the rest is history. But we don’t want to stop here. We are already working on the next auction that will take place in Milan on 15 December 2015, with our enthusiasm, passion and with no conceit.Those ten minutes in the morning of 26 May 2015 will be stamped in our eyes for a very, very long time in the future. For sure in my eyes.


Bianca Dolfin