The late English archaeologist-farmer Roger Pilkington collected a millennium’s worth of rare Chinese ceramics in the 1950s for mere pocket change. This April, Chinese collectors are going to have the opportunity to buy them back, but the asking price has gone up quite a bit in the last half century.
Mr. Pilkington was educated at Eton, an all-male boarding school in Windsor. After working at the Lancashire glassmaker for a few years, he moved to Ford Farm in Aldbourne. There, he spent his days shooting, fishing, and racing.
The late 1950s was a golden period for the Chinese art market in Britain. It took a decade for Pilkington to gather pieces from the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties.
He paid only around 100 pounds (3,000 pounds today) for each item, but it is expected that deep-pocketed Chinese collectors will pay at least 20 million pounds for the collection when it comes to auction in Hong Kong on April 6th.
The imperial objects, jade vessels, and monochrome stoneware illustrate the evolution of Chinese art through eras.
Most prized is the Chenghua Bowl, made for an emperor in the Ming Dynasty. It is estimated to sell for 6 million pounds alone.
“You can almost tell blind from touching the porcelain, it is so incredibly silky to the touch,” said Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia.
Another prized piece is the blue and white ritual holy water vessel from Yongle period, valued at 4 million. According to Sotheby’s, there are only two companion pieces in the world, one on display at the Palace Museum in Beijing.
It can even be found in an 18th-century double portrait of the Qianlong emperor, China’s greatest art collector.
This spherical moon flask, valued at 80,000 pounds, was inspired by Middle Eastern models, reflecting trade links between China and the Middle East.
Chow says that the sale is “a rare opportunity for today’s collectors to discover exquisite treasures assembled by one of the most discerning and exacting eyes in the history of collecting Chinese ceramics.”
Anybody want to go in on one together?
By Eugenia Xiao
[Images via Sotheby’s]