Allegorical: The Meiyingtang "Chicken Cup", from the
Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), sold for $39 million. Photo: AP
Chicken Cup sets Chinese art auction record with $39m sale
by Frederik Balfour
A porcelain cup sold for HK$281 million ($39 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on Tuesday, setting a new auction record for a Chinese work of art.
The sale of the Chengua-era object, nicknamed the ‘‘Chicken Cup’’, follows the HK$214 million auction on Tuesday night of a jadeite bead necklace, which set a record for such jewellery.
Sotheby’s Asia chief executive Kevin Ching made the winning bid for the cup on behalf of a telephone buyer in a packed room, which erupted into applause after auctioneer Quek Chin Yeow announced the record.
‘‘This is the holy grail of ceramics,’’ James Hennessy, a Hong Kong-based dealer, said after the sale. ‘‘People, emperors and collectors have always aspired to own one of these, and the opportunity doesn’t come along often.’’
The cup, which was owned by the Philippines-born businessman Stephen Zuellig, who is in his late nineties, measures only eight centimetres in diameter and earned the nickname for its depiction of a rooster, his hen and their chicks, an allegorical representation of the emperor, the empress and his subjects.
The previous auction record for a Chinese work of art was set in October when Chinese property developer Zheng Huaxing paid HK$236 million for a bronze Buddha at Sotheby’s Hong Kong.
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