A rare Ming-era wine cup broke the world auction record for any Chinese porcelain on Tuesday, selling in Hong Kong for $36.05 million (HK$281 million) to Shanghai tycoon Liu Yiqian, Sotheby’s auction house said.
The tiny white porcelain cup, decorated with a colour painting of a rooster and a hen tending to their chicks, was made during the reign of the Chenghua Emperor between 1465 and 1487.
Nicolas Chow, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, described the cup as the “holy grail” of Chinese art. ”There is no more legendary object in the history of Chinese porcelain. This is an object bathed in mythology.”
The chicken cup represents the pinnacle of Ming-era porcelain production. That period in terms of porcelain production was really the peak of material refinement. Emperors of later Chinese dynasties were so enamoured by the design that the chicken cup was copied extensively.
“When you buy a chicken cup… you don’t just buy the object, you’re buying centuries of imperial admiration for these objects,” he said.