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February 20, 2024

 The Arts of China – Colin’s thoughts on a continuing tradition.

During the sixty or so years that I have been handling Chinese porcelains, admittedly some of them as a young boy, I have seen many changes of fashion and attitude. For many years anything made during the nineteenth century, now the staple of many dealers’ stocks and avidly pursued at auction, was regarded as ‘new’. Indeed, purists even regarded eighteenth century pieces as a bit ‘modern’. All that was to change but the productions of the twentieth century were disregarded to the point of being ignored until an enterprising dealer, Peter Wain, began to take an interest and hold ground breaking exhibitions. “Much later work and much contemporary work is 100 percent of amazing quality," he said. "My love of ceramics covers all countries and all ceramics whether they are old or contemporary. Trend and fashion should not be part of it." 

Wain proved to be a trailblazer and many pieces from the ‘Republican Era’ (1912-1949), often bought in Hong Kong in the 1960s for very little money, are now fiercely contested by Chinese collectors. Prices can be stratospheric making it hard for those now entering into the market. But production continued, even after 1949, and I have found myself looking at, and indeed cataloguing, pieces that were made even during my lifetime. With an open eye, the quality is still there and I like to think that we are able to offer a continuing selection of these wares.

Our current auction ‘Chinese Works of Art#155’ contains a few and the grisaille plaque decorated with flowers is a particular favourite of mine, but I want to highlight here a small famille rose ginger jar. It was made, probably in the 1950s, when the various factories in Jiangxi were amalgamated into cooperatives. The quality was not even and there are other examples of these jars which are not so appealing. But our example is of the best and the painting matches anything produced in the nineteenth century or even earlier. And all this for an estimate of £10 to £20! A collector’s item for the future? 

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