The Chinese Influence Today

Chinese famille rose punch bowl
Chinese famille rose porcelain punch bowl, Qianlong period

I am fascinated how much we can learn from history and how objects speak across the centuries, providing us with a narrative for our own times. In the first of these columns I will be exploring the extraordinary impact of a resurgent Chinese economy in the collectors’ market in recent years and how its roots are in the 17th and 18th centuries.

We in the West should perhaps be unsurprised by the growth in the Indian and Chinese economies. Together these two economies account for some 14.7% of the global economy’s gross domestic product (GDP). The extraordinary progress of the Chinese economy in particular has made it a major player in markets as diverse as raw materials and antiques. Values for all things Chinese and collectable has mirrored this growth, transforming markets as prices have soared.

In the 18th century an East India Company Indiaman ship would order 30 tons of china of a standard and repeatable pattern. These bulk purchases were often of standard blue and white but provided important ballast just above the waterline, with tea and silks being stowed higher in the ship. There were strict regulations connected to these official imports.

Chinese famille rose vases
Pair of mid-19th century Chinese famille rose porcelain vases

More important were the private trade pieces, purchased on behalf of the crew by the company representative. They were of finer quality and included specially commissioned armorial, crested and initialled porcelains. Private order pieces also depicted European figures, like this Qianlong period bowl (pictured above), circa 1750, depicting hunting scenes, which I discovered in a collection in the west of Sussex two or three years ago. These items were purchased either to fulfil private commissions or would be sold through the East India Company’s auctions in London.

It is still these refined pieces which carry most favour among discriminating collectors in the market today and they are still being sold at auction, like this pair of mid-19th century Chinese famille rose porcelain vases, which realised £20,000 last year. Today, however, these objects are increasingly returning to China.

Demand from China on collectors’ markets is already having a profound effect. Imagine if, together with India, they recover their historic economic position. Between 1500 and 1850 AD, China and India accounted not for 14.7% but between 50% and 60% of the world’s GDP. It will be intriguing to see how their tastes develop and affect our market in the future.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 20th March 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Toovey’s Expand to China with AAA

Toovey’s will be represented by the British Ambassador to China at the official launch of an exciting new professional group, comprising twenty-one of the leading regional auction houses in the United Kingdom, at the British Embassy in Beijing this April.

These auction houses, which have a combined annual turnover in excess of £200 million, have united to become a dominant UK force in the lucrative Chinese market. In an unprecedented move, they have launched AAA (The Association of Accredited Auctioneers) and forged commercial links with Asia’s only online live bidding portal,, which now promotes their sales directly to more than 100,000 registered collectors of fine art and antiques in China and posts their catalogues translated into Chinese online.

“The number of Chinese nationals attending our sales in person has grown and grown over recent years but there is a huge audience of potential buyers in the East, who lack the experience and knowledge necessary for direct trade with the West and are unable to make the journey here,” comments auction house director Rupert Toovey. “The objective of the Association of Accredited Auctioneers is to increase confidence and understanding of the UK auction business through a programme of targeted marketing, quality assurance and educational presentations to key growth markets in China. As a firm we are delighted to be among the founder members of AAA.”

Toovey’s Oriental Department holds six specialist auctions of Chinese, Japanese and other Far Eastern ceramics and works of art a year and holds regular valuation days. Department head Tom Rowsell and his consultant, BBC Antiques Roadshow expert Lars Tharp, have over the last fifteen years built one of the pre-eminent specialist auction departments in the UK. “The influence of the Chinese on the UK auction market cannot be underestimated,” says Tom Rowsell. “Our web presence through has complimented the depth of our expertise by providing our clients with accelerated marketing and an international shop window for the sale of their objects. Rare Chinese pieces still command the highest prices but there is now a tremendous demand for British antiques in China, particularly furniture, silver, jewellery, clocks and watches, and we hope that the AAA project will encourage more and more mainland Chinese to buy items in all the specialist sections in our auctions.

Toovey’s Closed Due to Snow

Toovey's in the Snow

PLEASE NOTE: Due to disruptive weather we have made the decision to close today, Friday 18th January. While the main roads are relatively clear the drive up to Toovey’s is difficult to traverse due to the snow.

We are hoping to clear this in time for the viewing on Saturday 19th January, but please check our website, as further updates will appear there.

Toovey’s December 2012/January 2013 Opening Times

We close for Christmas at 11.30am on Thursday 20th December.

We reopen for pre-sale viewing of our End of Year Sale on: Thursday 27th December from 10am to 4pm and the sale day: Friday 28th December from 9am to the start of the sale at 10am. All enquiries regarding this sale will be answered on our return.

After the sale, we are then closed again from Saturday 29th December to Tuesday 1st January. We return to our normal opening hours on Wednesday 2nd January.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our clients and friends a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year from all of us at Toovey’s.