throne unseats record

HONG KONG - A rare Chinese emperor's dragon throne sold for $11,07million (R81,5million) at a Sotheby's sale in Hong Kong, breaking the auction record for a piece of Chinese furniture in a sale which achieved robust prices for top-flight antiques.

HONG KONG - A rare Chinese emperor's dragon throne sold for $11,07million (R81,5million) at a Sotheby's sale in Hong Kong, breaking the auction record for a piece of Chinese furniture in a sale which achieved robust prices for top-flight antiques.

The imperial carved zitan "dragon" throne of Qing dynasty Qianlong period was sold to a Shanghai-based Chinese buyer in the room, after lively bidding that took the price well above the R28,5million pre-sale estimate.

While the Chinese art market has been hit by the financial crisis, especially contemporary Chinese art, more traditional categories of Chinese paintings and antiques have fared better, particularly for exceptional objects.

The uniqueness of the throne, and the relative scarcity of such high-end Chinese furniture with solid provenance contributed to its high price, experts and auction participants said.

"This throne was literally the seat of Imperial power, and this aroused enormous interest among discerning collectors from around the world," said Sotheby's international head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Nicolas Chow.

Crafted from precious "zitan" wood, the throne is elaborately carved with a "five dragon" motif symbolising the emperor.

The previous record for Chinese furniture was a R33million Qianlong "zitan" side table auctioned last year, Sotheby's said.

Gambling tycoon Stanley Ho bought a gilt-incised lacquered throne of the Kangxi Qing emperor in 2007 for R13,2million.

But demand was weaker for lower-end works, with 32percent of lots in the Chinese ceramics and works of art sale going unsold.

Other highlights in the Chinese ceramics and works of art sale included a large enamelled "famille-rose" celadon ground butterfly vase that made R20,5million.

"Prices were good today but tended towards the high side for some objects," said Hong Kong dealer William Chak, who bought a few Chinese ceramics including a blue Qing meiping vase.

A stunning and eclectic "Water, Pine and Stone Retreat collection" of scholar's objects and Chinese objets d'art sourced over many decades by prominent collector, dealer and scholar Hugh Moss, also achieved solid results, with the top lot - a translucent Qianlong yellow jade bowl with a thick base - selling for almost R62,5million. - Reuters

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