18th-Century Chinese Famille Noire Vase

Value (2011) | $30,000 Auction$50,000 Auction

I bought it at a garage sale about 40 years ago.

And what price did you pay 40 years ago?

Ten dollars.

Ten dollars. Do you know the country of origin?

No, I know absolutely nothing about it. I just saw it and I liked it.

That's the best reason to buy a piece. It's definitively Chinese. The decoration on the vase is what we call famille noire, which is a black glaze, or black ground, and decorated or enameled with prunus blossoms, which are shown on the body, the pheasant surmounting rockwork, which is a common Chinese motif, and bamboo groves. Its overall form would be called a gourd or pear-form vase. As we tip it over, we see a six-character mark. It's underglazed in blue, which is typical of the Chinese. It's a Ming mark, Chenghua, and dates from 1465. However, the vase was not produced in 1465. No. There was a resurgence in marking Chinese porcelain with Ming marks during the late 17th, early 18th century. There was also a resurgence marking Chinese porcelains with Ming marks in the 19th century. This is why buying antiques, collecting Chinese works of art, can be problematic. Having said that, I've conferred with my colleagues and we believe this vase to be from the 18th century. Now, there are a few reasons why we came to that conclusion. As I tip the vase over again, you'll see this exposed footrim. It's a worn footrim. It's smooth, which will indicate exposure to surface wear over 200 years. The blue underglaze mark is a violet blue. It's a freely painted or underglazed six-character mark. There's a depth to the blue underglaze. The 19th-century pieces had a very single-dimensional blue. The decoration, although less than refined, is also typical of kind of a very freely painted, or enameled, 18th-century porcelain vase. Good period wear. The interior's dirty and scruffed, which is what we like to see. There's wear to the enamel overall. So there is a difference between 200-year wear to the enamel, the outer body, and 100-year wear. So for those reasons, we believe it to be 18th century. Had this been a 19th-century vase, the auction estimate would be between $4,000 and $6,000. 100 years difference, these are quite scarce. When they do come onto the marketplace, they're in high demand. So the conservative auction estimate for this vase would be $30,000 to $50,000.

Oh, my gosh! Well... I am quite surprised...

So a prudent ten-dollar investment.


Appraisal Details

PKR Antiques & Fine Art
West Palm Beach, FL
Appraised value (2011)
$30,000 Auction$50,000 Auction
Tulsa, OK (July 23, 2011)
18th Century
Enamel, Porcelain

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