£132,000 South Coast Discovery at Toovey’s

A pair of Chinese famille rose enamelled porcelain rectangular tea caddies
£132,000 pair of Chinese famille rose enamelled porcelain rectangular tea caddies

A pair of Chinese famille rose enamelled porcelain tea caddies, displayed on a window sill, caught the eye of a Toovey’s valuer during a routine visit to a client’s home. The caddies were subsequently brought in for sale and went under the gavel in a specialist Asian Art sale on Thursday 23rd February 2017.

These Qing dynasty caddies from the Imperial kilns were similar in shape to those made for the European export market. However, the painted blossoming branches and flowering stems accompanied by the lines of text and red seals are typically Chinese in taste, as are the profusely decorated sides with their panels of lotus flowers and tendrils. Measuring just 16.7cm in height they realised a remarkable £132,0000. Both the vendor and Toovey’s Asian Art specialist, Tom Rowsell, are delighted with the result.

Damaged Vase Sells for over Half-a-million Pounds at Toovey’s

The Chinese famille rose vase

A chipped and heavily repaired vase went under the hammer for an extraordinary £520,000 at fine art auctioneers Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms at Washington on Thursday 4th December 2014.

The 40.3cm-high Chinese famille rose and pea green ground vase dated from the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795) and would originally have been a decorative piece made for one of the emperor’s palaces. It was decorated with four floral panels representing the seasons, alternating with four further panels with poems in different calligraphic scripts.

Some of the damage to the vase

At some point in the 19th century, the rim had been broken into a number of pieces and repaired with rivets and metal wire, a popular form of restoration right up until the 1960s, when epoxy and polyester resin glues were developed. The rim also had a fair-size piece missing and there were other smaller areas of loss. None of this put off a host of Oriental antiques specialists around the world and on the day nine telephone bidders, a strong presence bidding live online and a number of key UK and Chinese players in the room all vied for the piece. After a lengthy battle, the final bidding was left to two major collectors, one bidding from China by telephone, the other, the eventual winner, bidding in the room.

The vase was discovered by Toovey’s following a routine enquiry by email from a local couple, attaching a number of images of items at their property which they wanted to auction. They were all modest items, except for the vase, which Toovey’s Oriental specialist Tom Rowsell immediately spotted as something potentially very interesting. The couple subsequently brought the vase to Toovey’s to show Tom in person and he confirmed his thoughts that the vase was almost certainly Qianlong mark and period and a highly commercial piece in the current market. Toovey’s Oriental consultant, Lars Tharp, later concurred with Tom’s opinion. The vase had been inherited by the wife from her late father, who, she believed, bought it at auction in the 1960s. The couple had no idea that the vase was of any importance or value prior to contacting Toovey’s.

This remarkable hammer price rounds off a record year for Toovey’s, who have been steadily notching up an impressive run of results throughout 2014.

Watch the lot selling below:

Amazing Result at Toovey’s!

The charcoal and chalk drawing auctioned at Toovey’s for £320,000

A genre scene picture of a woman standing in an interior reading a book created an electric atmosphere when it was auctioned at Toovey’s for £320,000 on Wednesday 8th October 2014.
“It’s an age-old saying in the auction world that you only need two people to create an extraordinary price. £320,000 for an 18th century French School charcoal and chalk drawing is extraordinary by any measure,” said company director Rupert Toovey.
This unsigned, unattributed drawing, with little family provenance, was entered by a long-standing Toovey’s client from London, who had inherited it as part of her late mother’s estate. It had lain out of sight in a remover’s store in Southsea for more than fifteen years. The client, who said the drawing was always regarded as an insignificant picture by her family, was amazed and delighted with the result.
The result surprised even the experts and vastly exceeded the modest pre-sale estimate. The quality of the picture, however, was not ignored. The picture was illustrated in the auction catalogue and online and actively marketed to collectors and specialist galleries across the globe. On the day, bids rose rapidly from the saleroom floor and live internet bidding. Two leading commercial fine art galleries, one in Paris, the other in London, then locked horns in a bidding battle which resulted in auctioneer Nicholas Toovey’s gavel finally falling at £320,000. “It’s results like this that make our profession so fascinating and exciting!” Mr Toovey exclaimed. “Every piece we auction is marketed on the major collectors’ websites. Our own website, www.tooveys.com, is key to our marketing strategy, bringing almost a quarter-of-a-million potential clients to our salerooms every year.” The fruits of Toovey’s investment in this industry-leading technology is apparent in their ability to reach worldwide collectors’ markets. Rupert Toovey concluded: “In our internet age it is remarkable that so much can still rest on the opinions of a few courageous bidders.”

August 2014 Postcard Auction Sale Report

Henfield Station at Toovey's Auction
'Henfield Station' postcard, sold for £120

Toovey’s auction of Paper Collectables on 12th August included 146 lots of postcards. With only three lots failing to sell, there is no shortage of talking points:

Partridge Green Station at Toovey's
'Partridge Green Station', sold for £110

Private collectors went loco for a small group of individual postcards of Sussex railway platforms. No less than four successful collectors express-ed an interest, each chuffed with their purchases, once again proving the Sussex postcard market is far from station-ary! Bad puns aside, £120 was paid for an RP of ‘Henfield Station’ with a steam engine entering the now-vanished station. The exact same view with small loss to one corner only made £30, reinforcing the difference condition makes to the private collector. RP views of ‘Partridge Green Station’, ‘The Station, Southwater’ and a different view of ‘Henfield Railway Station’ each sold for £110.

Embroidered silk postcard, from an album that sold for £1500
Embroidered silk postcard, from an album that sold for £1500

Topographical postcards were popular throughout the auction but Sussex views continued to steal the headlines. An RP titled ‘Sussex Pruning Camp’, offered with a similar RP, sold for £95. A group of 4 postcards of Partridge Green, including a scarce RP of ‘Jolesfield Windmill’, achieved £140. A similar group of 13 postcards of nearby Cowfold and Shermanbury realised £240 and 31 postcards of Henfield sold for £420. All of these lots went to private collectors.

Outside of the Sussex scene, notable prices included 8 postcards of Barnes and Isleworth, which topped £120. An album of 52 postcards of the Channel Islands, predominantly Jersey, went at £320. A group of 160 of Middlesex reached £340 and £20 was paid for a slightly faded RP of ‘Finchley Rd Station’. A private collection of postcards published by LL performed well too, including a 286-postcard collection of London, which sold for £480.

Little Nap the Chimpanzee postcard, sold for £60
Little Nap, sold for £60

Topography was not the only area of interest. Leading the fray at £1500 was an album of 74 postcards, including a brilliant selection of regimental embroidered silks, which went to an internet bidder despite the busy room. One of the surprising results of the sale came in the form of a single RP of ‘Little Nap’, a chimpanzee dressed-up as Napoleon, which, after a battle between a private collector and the internet, sold for £60 in the room.

1 of 6 by Brunelleschi postcards, sold for £380
Brunelleschi postcards, sold for £380

A good selection of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and glamour postcards also attracted serious interest and stiff competition among bidders. A group of 6 Art Nouveau colour postcards by Umberto Brunelleschi was hotly contested, largely due to their great condition, selling at £380, just over £60 per postcard and nearly double their mid pre-sale estimate. 4 Italian Art Deco postcards by M. Montedoro achieved £130 and 9 postcards by Raphael Kirchner realised £160.

Arguably among the scarcest of postcards included in the auction was a large group of composite puzzle postcards, divided into 11 lots. Highlights included a set of 4 colour printed postcards titled ‘Fridtjof Nansen Nord Polar-Expedition’, which sold to a collector at £130, and a set of 6 French hand-coloured postcards of Barnum Circus, which went for £140. To view all the previous sale results click here.

Toovey’s next auction of Paper Collectables, including postcards, stamps, cigarette cards, photographs, autographs and ephemera, will be held on 4th November 2014. Whilst this auction has now deadlined,  four have been scheduled for 2015 due to the popularity of the Paper Collectable auctions at Toovey’s. Contact us to discuss your postcard collection for one of our future specialist sales.

By Nicholas Toovey, a member of the Postcard Traders Association. Originally published as a Sale Report in Picture Postcard Monthly October 2014 issue.

Mainland Chinese Buyers Beat a Path to Toovey’s

A group of five Chinese famille rose porcelain rectangular plaques, Republic period (1912-1949), sold at auction by Toovey’s for £16,000
A view of the entrance to The Forbidden City from Tiananmen Square, taken by Rupert Toovey on a business trip to Beijing

We are familiar with stories of revolution in China. When you go there, the influences of the communist takeover of mainland China in 1949 and Mao’s Cultural Revolution from 1966 onwards are apparent everywhere. Tiananmen Square in Beijing is dominated by marching Chinese People’s Liberation Army guards and enormous television screens project images of modern China beneath fluttering red flags. A queue, ten people wide, stretches patiently as far as the eye can see, processing into Mao’s mausoleum, where his embalmed body lies in state. On the other side of this square is the entrance to the Forbidden City. You enter past an army guard through a narrow arch beneath an enormous portrait of Mao and, as you do, you witness families and people venerating him, bowing and reaching out to touch one of the large bronze studs on the ancient red door, which are polished by the stream of hands. It is apparent that Mao is perceived by many to be the father of the nation and is now a cultural icon in his own right. It is as though these people are on a pilgrimage to visit the relics of a saint. There are the qualities of both the ancient and the modern in these scenes. Once inside the Forbidden City, the atmosphere is more playful with Chinese families enjoying a day out.

A Chinese porcelain circular plate, Republic period (1912-1949), sold at auction by Toovey’s for £8,500

The Xinhai Revolution began with the Wuchang Uprising in October 1911. By January 1912, the Republic of China had been established. It brought to an end two thousand years of imperial rule. Emperor Puyi was allowed to continue to reside in the Forbidden City, his story made famous by Bernardo Bertolucci’s film ‘The Last Emperor’. Through much of the 19th century, Imperial China fought numerous rebellions and invasions. The relative stability which the Republic period brought in the 20th century signalled a revival in porcelain manufacture in Jingdezhen in the Jiangxi province.

A Chinese porcelain rectangular plaque, Republic period (1912-1949), sold at auction by Toovey’s for £4,000

The items of Chinese porcelain shown here date from the Republic period (1912-1949) and were sold in Toovey’s specialist Asian Art auction in August. They were the property of a local collector, who had spent several years in the Far East. His interests reflected the tastes of the Western connoisseurs from Britain and America who purchased this porcelain in the early 20th century. The delicacy of the enamelling on the group of five porcelain plaques, each measuring 19 x 12.5cm, is exquisite and the composition of birds and flowers is highly refined. Despite the fact that two of them were restored, they sold at auction for £16,000 to a collector in Shenzhen, China. Just as fine is the single plaque, measuring 37.5 x 24cm. The two birds in flight are beautifully depicted, framed by the restrained floral branches. This piece was sold to a Chinese collector from Nanchang for £4,000. The delicately painted Republic period plate, diameter 23.5cm, decorated with a scene of a man and maiden in a boat beneath a willow tree, also found favour with Chinese bidders and went under the hammer to the same collector in Nanchang for £8,500. All pieces bear the black enamelled calligraphic script which is so often found on objects from this period. Although many such pieces imitate Imperial designs, these later examples are sometimes signed or give clues to the artists or private workshops which proliferated at this time in Jingdezhen.

Tom Rowsell, head of Asian and Islamic Ceramics and Works of Art at Toovey’s, commented: “We have specialised in Chinese porcelain and fine art for almost twenty years at Toovey’s. We have a long-standing Chinese client base but we are continuing to build relationships successfully with new, emerging mainland Chinese collectors through our business activities out there, working with China’s leading collectors’ internet platform, EpaiLive.”

Today, it is the Chinese collector who is driving the demand for Republic period porcelain, rather than the Western buyers who originally patronised this beautiful work. Tom Rowsell is always pleased to offer advice, whether you are interested in selling or acquiring Chinese objects in this boom market. He is now taking in entries for his next specialist sale on Thursday 9th October 2014 and can be contacted on 01903 891955.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 27th August 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.