Small Bowl Fetches Huge Price At Record-Breaking Auction

A thousand-year-old bowl used for washing paint brushes broke records in a Hong Kong auction on October third. The artifact fetched more than $37 million, about a million more than the last record holder.

The small bowl may not look like anything out of the ordinary, but it's worth a fortune. The polished ceramic dish from the Song dynasty of Imperial China sold for a cool $37.1 million to an anonymous buyer.

The small 'virtually unobtainable' bowl is over 1,000 years old and was made by Ru guanyao, one of the Five Great Kilns used at the time. These five kilns were held in high esteem, with Ru being the most famous of the group. Ru was one of the two kilns specifically used to commission 'official ware' for the imperial court. The distinctive glaze, which is often described as 'the blue of the sky in a clearing amongst the clouds after rain', is believed to contain agate.

Despite the popularity, Ru ware was only operational for about a 20-year period in the 1100s, so it produced few pieces, most of which have been lost or destroyed over time. Only about 87 pieces of Ru are thought to remain, and rarely do they go on sale. In the last 80 years, only about 6 pieces have been offered for sale.

The bowl was commissioned by the imperial court and was used to clean brushes. The tiny bowl spans just five inches across. It has an 'ice crackle' pattern and has been finished with a beautiful, seemingly glowing blue-green glaze.

Sotheby's offered the item for auction starting at a price of $13 million. For 20 minutes, a fierce bidding war ensued between interested parties. The final price came in at $24 million above the opening price.

"It's a totally new benchmark for Chinese ceramics and we've made history with this piece today," said Nicolas Chow, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Asia.

It may seem like a lot of money for a bowl, but the piece is extremely important in Chinese culture. Pieces like the brush-cleaning bowl from this period are the quintessential examples of the Chinese potters' crafts.

In 2012, another brush washing dish was put up for auction at Sotheby's, and was originally expected to bring in $6 to $8 million, but it ended up going for over $22 million. That was also an exciting bid war that showed the popularity of the small pieces.

The previous record holder was known as the 'Chicken Cup'. The small ceramic wine cup from the Ming dynasty was created while the Chenghua Emperor reigned in the 15th century.

The buyer, Liu Yiqian, a former taxi driver who became a wealthy financier, paid $36 million for the piece, which was white with little chickens and flowers painted on it. After he bought the cup, he drank tea from it. People on social media in China went nuts over the man using the rare cup.

Source: Daily Mail
Photo: YouTube

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