Imperial Chinese Porcelain Bring Novelties to Market

Imperial Chinese Porcelain Goes on Sale at Christie's and Could Bring Changes Into an Already Fragile Market.

Sep 17, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Imperial Chinese Porcelain
Marchant Asian Art, London. Via Marchant


Imperial Chinese porcelain will hit the market through Christie’s sale, taking place on September 21. The Asian art London-based collector Marchant is selling eight pieces. The sellers believe it could revive the formerly burgeoning Western demand for these porcelains. This auction piques curiosity on several levels. It is weird that Marchant is working with Christie’s, since the institution works this job since 1925.


Imperial Chinese Porcelain Most Valuable From the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty

Christie’s in King Street, St James’s, via Wikimedia Commons


The artifacts going on auction are from about the time of Wanli’s (1573–1620) accession to the throne. Samuel Marchant says the late Ming Dynasty produced some exceptional ceramics at this time. But, as Wanli’s rule came to a finish, output quality drastically decreased. Marchant is an expert. Samuel Sidney Marchant, his great grandpa, started the firm.


After the founding, Samuel’s grandpa joined the firm when he was 17 years old in 1953. Samuel discussed the variations among the early, centre, and final Ming dynasties ceramics. Also, between Imperial porcelains made “during the reigns of Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong, who are three of the three most prominent and famous emperors of the Qing Dynasty“.


Imperial Chinese Porcelain


Ceramics from the Early and Middle Ming Dynasties has been shown to be the most precious. Such famous illustration is the $36 million “chicken cup” that Liu Yiqian acquired in 2014. Yiqian belongs to China’s leading art collectors. Reuters report called the cup one of the “most sought-after items in Chinese art, viewed with a reverence perhaps equivalent to that for the jeweled Faberge eggs of Tsarist Russia”.

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Why Producing Quality Ceramics Fell Off?

prehistoric inventions china pot
A pot reconstructed with shards from the original dating to around 20,000 to 10,000 years ago from China, via Arkeo News.


Marchant also explained why there’s little example of ceramics from Wanli’s reign. “Toward the end the emperor, and the country, were essentially going bankrupt”, he stated. China had conflicts and uprisings during the years of 1590 and 1600, which is regarded as the middle era of the Wanli dynasty. Previously affluent nation started to struggle under a newfound solipsistic ruler. It could be what caused the manufacturing of high-quality china to diminish.


That decline in standard indicates to Marchant and his gallery that the early Wanli period hasn’t truly received the respect it merits. The Keswick “Hundred Deer” Jar is the purchase’s centrepiece. The estimated price is $700,000–$900,000. Also, the collection’s last seven items are incredibly uncommon. Many of them belong to museum collections.




The auction’s live bidding starts on September 21. This also happens to be Wanli’s ascension’s 450th anniversary. But, this is not the only way behind auction taking place. The collection’s “significant scholarly and academic importance” justifies its placement in a museum or institution, according to this justification. They require the kind of exposure that only a large, international company like Christie’s can provide.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.