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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Trelissick House yields Imperial Chinese Treasure for auction at Bonhams

Former home of Deputy Governor of the Bank of England boasts vase that is a triumph of Chinese expertise

The contents of Trelissick House, former home of Leonard Daneham Cunliffe, one of Britain’s most distinguished collectors, will be sold by Bonhams on 23-24 July this year. The sale will comprise approximately 750 lots and is estimated to realize in the region of £1m – £1.5m. The majority of the items in the auction are being sold without reserve.

Imperial Chinese flambé-glazed bottle vase
Imperial Chinese flambé-glazed bottle vase
Top lot in the sale is a very fine and rare Imperial Chinese flambé-glazed bottle vase with an incised Qianlong seal mark of the period. It stands 29.6cm (11 5/8in) high and is estimated to sell for £70,000-100,000.

It is believed to have been acquired by Leonard Cunliffe prior to 1918, and appears to be recorded in the catalog handwritten by Leonard Cunliffe and signed 31 July 1918.
Colin Sheaf, Head of Chinese Art at Bonhams says: “Emperor Qianlong ruled from 1736 to1795 before abdicating. This vase would have been made in Jingdezhen, China’s unique porcelain-producing city in Jiangxi Province, where for centuries China’s most glittering ceramics were created by master potters for display and daily use at the Imperial Court in Beijing’s mysterious, overpowering, lavishly decorated, Forbidden City.”

The inspiration for the flambé glaze on the vase can be traced back to the splashed Jun wares of the Song Dynasty. However this particular red glaze, derived from copper but also containing lead, was exceptionally unstable and difficult to control in the kiln, resulting in the highest failure rate of all Chinese glazes. It was not until an extraordinary technical mastery was developed during the Qing period, and the Qianlong reign in particular, that successful flambé-glazed porcelain could be produced in any quantity.

The rounded body is tapered to a slender neck molded with a double bowstring crowned by the bulbous garlic-shaped mouth. It is covered with a rich flambé glaze of a vibrant red streaked with darker patches and highlighted with lavender splashes around the body and at the mouth, the streaked glaze of a soft blue tone reaches into the interior and the underside with a thin café-au-lait glaze.

Flambé-glazed vases were particularly admired by Western collectors and craftsmen, who appreciated the beauty of the deep red streaked with blue as well as the complexity of the technique and the immense control required to achieve successful results.
Just as the present lot was acquired by Leonard Cunliffe in the early 20th century, related flambé pieces quickly found their way into the homes of other renowned collectors, including George Eumorfopoulos and George Salting (1835-1909), who bequeathed numerous pieces to the Victoria & Albert Museum.