Monday, May 16, 2011

A Glorious Samson Porcelain "Chinese" Vase

Any appraiser who pretends a really good estate having a nice household full of furniture, art, carpets, porcelain, glass and other items of distinction can be done by one appraiser is probably taking on more than he or she can handle. Experience has taught me the importance of putting together a good team of knowledgeable experts to do it as accurately as possible. Alas! In many instances the client does not want to spend the money and the appraiser is strong armed into doing an appraisal with little or no collaboration from expert colleagues because the client doesn't want to spend what it costs to do it correctly. This is a huge example of poor judgment on the part of the client when that happens and the result is often not as satisfactory as it should be. An example of how a good established appraiser of residential contents should engage and should be allowed by the client to engage a good team of specialists was very obvious in the instance of a recent estate full of unexpected surprises that included this stunning and rather large polychrome vase of the style known as Famille Verte. This monumental vase appeared to be of the reign of the Emperor Kangxi from the early 18th Century measuring 30 inches high. It also had been assumed by its owner to have been embellished in the 18th Century in France, to where it had presumably been imported, with gleaming and finely cast ormolu. As my readers probably know, it was very common in the 18th Century in France to import Chinese porcelain vessels and embellish them with ormolu to suit French luxury consumer taste.

The more I scrutinized it the more I was doubtful if it was 18th Century "of the period" or a good late 19th Century Chinese copy with ormolu of the same period. One thing was obvious. The difference in colour and casting of the bronze finial on the domed lid - when compared to the rest of the gilded bronze in the area of the rim of the main body of the vase - indicated that part of the embellishment was not original and was a recent replacement.

I showed it to two Asian experts who were also unsettled by it. Both felt it was 19th Century but not certain if it was indeed Asian...

Fortunately for me, I was authorized by my enlightened client, who understood that some money had to be spent to establish what this and other fine porcelains in this collection were, and I had scheduled to work on this estate with my valued colleague Letitia Roberts, AAA. Ms. Roberts is a long time veteran in the world of English and Continental porcelain. She worked as the principal porcelain expert at Sotheby's New York since the 1970's until recently. Now she's on her own as an appraiser and essentially devotes herself exclusively to porcelain appraisal. Letitia pointed out one very obvious feature that no one had noted. The rim of the domed lid did NOT have a circular projecting rim as is invariably the case in any Chinese porcelain vase or mantle urn having a lid! Of course! The obvious and crucial tell tale sign was that and it had eluded the notice of 3 very seasoned appraisers!

Further, it had all the features of Samson porcelain in its texture, colour and thickness. In the end, it turned out to be anything but what the owner thought it was. But what it turned out to be was also a very desirable example of a porcelain vase on a large scale by one of the most interesting and prolific fakers of antique porcelain whose massive productions are now much admired and collected in their own right!

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