|A porcelain cup known as a "chicken cup" because of its decorations fetched $36 million at a Sotherby's auction in Hong Kong on Tuesday. The buyer was Shanghai billionaire Liu Yiqian. LI PENG / XINHUA|
An 8.2-centimeter-tall porcelain cup from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) fetched a staggering HK$281.24 million ($36 million) at an auction in Hong Kong on Tuesday, setting a new record for Chinese porcelain at auction.
Shanghai billionaire Liu Yiqian won the bidding via a telephone consignment.
The cup, which is in pristine condition, was made using the doucai method of fashioning porcelain that began during the Ming Dynasty, and was used for appreciation, not for display. It is commonly known as a "chicken cup" because it is decorated with paintings of chickens.
The cup celebrates the pinnacle of the Chenghua style of porcelain-making from 1465 to 1487 that is renowned for refining the doucai method. Well-preserved examples from that period are rare.
Historians say this particular style is an important variation of Chinese porcelain because it features a contrast of overglaze enamel - which is applied on top of an existing glaze - paired with underglaze outlines - or decorations applied to the surface of a ceramic before it is glazed. Rich tones of yellow, red, olive green and underglaze blue are common during this period.
"There is nothing rarer in the Chinese porcelain than a Chenghua chicken cup. There are less than 20 genuine ones in the world," said Giuseppe Eskenazi, a London dealer of Chinese antiques who once owned the cup and made unsuccessful bids on Tuesday.