AWhen Mark Newstead saw the vase for the first time, it was in a kitchen. Along with his wife, Newstead was invited to a friend’s house sometime in the late 1990s, he says in a video about the find.
The vase belonged to his friend’s father, a surgeon, who bought it for a few hundred pounds before 1993 because he liked it. He told his friend back then that it could be something really good, says Newstead.
“Bat and Crane Vase” is extraordinary
When the expert for Asian ceramic art at the Dreweatts auction house in Newbury in the west of the English county of Berkshire visited his friend’s parents’ house again a few years later, the vase, which was around 60 centimeters high, was no longer in the kitchen but was now on the sideboard in the living room Family dining room.
The bulbous vessel was auctioned at Dreweatts on Wednesday evening. For £1.2m (€1.42m) to an anonymous buyer over the phone. The vase was estimated at 100,000 to 150,000 pounds. So she’s more than just something really good, she’s special, as Newstead now knows. “It must have stood in one of the imperial Qing palaces in the Forbidden City.” The vase was probably made especially for the emperor at the time, Qianlong, the fourth Chinese emperor of the Qing dynasty, which ruled from the mid-17th century to to the 1911 revolution in the successor to the Ming dynasty.
At that time, T’ang Ying (1682 to 1756) was responsible for imperial ceramics in the porcelain city of Jingdezhen. He may also be responsible for the special coloring: cobalt blue was already known, also in connection with gold, but the combination with silver goes back to T’ang Ying. This is exactly what makes the “bat and crane vase” so special.
For the technically complex glazing and enamelling, it had to be fired at least three times: first at 1200 degrees for the cobalt blue, then at a slightly lower temperature for the turquoise-green interior of the vase, and finally for the golden and silver enamel – and in a special one custom made oven.
Emperor Qianlong was not only a Buddhist but also a Daoist. This is what the symbols on the vase refer to, which unfortunately has a crack on its neck. The decor shows silver cranes carrying one of the eight symbols of eternal life, including a basket of flowers, a flute and a fan. The clouds and bats also represent longevity and prosperity. The spherical shape symbolizes the sky.
Actually, says Newstead, there should have been two identical vases standing together as a pair. But nothing is known of a second vase. It’s possible that the counterpart is still around somewhere in a kitchen in the English Midlands.