A rare underglaze copper-red Ming Dynasty vase was sold at a price of 78.52 million HK dollars (10. 13 million U.S. dollars) on Tuesday in Hong Kong, setting a world auction record for any Ming porcelain.
"He's bought the vase at the right price, making a world record, " said Edward Dolman, chief executive officer of Christie's International. He's referring to the vase's buyer Steve Wynn, chairman of the Wynn Resorts (Macao).
The pear-shaped vase decorated with a peony scroll is the only copper-red vase of the early Ming Dynasty, more than 600 years ago, still in perfect condition to be offered at auction in more than 15 years, said the Christie's Hong Kong.
The vase was originally inherited by a Scottish couple who used it as a lamp and did not know its importance until they had seen a related example in a museum.
When Christie's London sold the vase in 1984, it realized a price of 421,200 pound (about 615,000 U.S. dollars), then a record price for a Far Eastern work of art sold at Christie's.
Ceramics with underglaze copper-red decoration are very rare for the complicated producing procedure.
Copper mineral used to produce the expected crush raspberry-red tone is known to be notoriously difficult to control during the firing process, resulting in a gray or almost colorless design.
Due to the high rate of failure, potters of Jingdezhen, the famous Chinese town producing ceramics, had to plead with officials to reduce the order as requested by the royal court.
Among the small number of underglaze copper-red vases remaining through the years, most have suffered various degrees of damage and repair, especially on the narrow and thin neck.
The peony vase on auction is one of those rare successes where the pattern is expertly executed and the color is evenly distributed, while still in perfect shape without damage.
Calling it a "rare perfect example," Dolman said the vase has always rewritten auction price records whenever it made an appearance.
Even the buyer Steve Wynn agreed that the artifact "is expensive," but "priceless."
Calling the vase "the extraordinary beautiful part of Chinese history," Wynn announced after the auction he would give it to the museum of Macao for exhibition for free.
"I want to make it a gift to the People's Republic of China, make it a gift to the Museum of Macao, so that residents of Macao and all visitors there can appreciate the artifact," he said.