Appraisal day discovery breaks auction records

A rare Joseon Dynasty Korean blue and white porcelain jar set a world record at auction on Dec. 9., in the San Francisco salesroom of Bonhams & Butterfields when it sold over the telephone to an unidentified Asian buyer.

The mid-Joseon Dynasty (circa 1800) jar was discovered by Asian art department director Dessa Goddard in a monthly appraisal event. It was formerly in the collection of Mrs. Fiske Warren of Boston, Mass., part of the Mount Vernon Street Warren family, living there at the turn of the 19th century. The vase became a family heirloom and has been in a family member’s Southern California home for decades.

Competitive bidding was seen throughout the sale. The jar, the auction’s top lot, breaks the existing auction record for a Korean blue and white porcelain jar – the new owner paid $4,184,000 for the rare, elegantly painted masterpiece. It was estimated at $200,000-$300,000.

The bidding began with the two banks of telephone bidders vying for auctioneer Patrick Meade’s attention. Within minutes the bidding quickly climbed to $2 million. From that point on, only two parties remained in contention. Meade ended the suspense, hammering down the lot at the winning bid of $3.7 million (with buyer’s premium, the official selling price is $4,184,000).

“Despite economic downturns across the globe, we are continuing to see that rare objects can achieve record prices. We had a very solid auction across the board today, and are particularly delighted to achieve this remarkable result for the Warren Korean jar,” Goddard said.

Additional strong selling lots at auction include: $144,000 paid for an 18th/19th century white nephrite tripod covered censer; $120,000 paid for a massive huanghuali 17th/18th century cupboard; and $120,000 paid for a fine Republic Period six-panel hardwood floor screen inset with famille rose porcelain plaques, attributed to Wang Yeting (1884-1942).

The Dec. 9 sale totaled more than $5.7 million. The illustrated auction catalog for this sale remains online with prices realized at

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