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Woolley & Wallis, Salisbury: The Phillip Allen Collection, 16 November 2023

The collector Phillip Allen passed away in 2022. He had been an active member of the Oriental Ceramics Society (OCS) and after his retirement from Birmingham Central Library, he became the travel organiser and honorary secretary for the OCS.

I received a call in January review his collection at his Victorian house in Bedford. After an examination of the contents and discussions with the executors, Woolley and Wallis were appointed as auctioneers for the collection. I had advised the executors to proceed with a no reserve sale and to set estimates at sensible levels to encourage maximum bidding on the day. 

The auction was held on the 16th of November and comprised 306 lots of Chinese and Japanese ceramics and works of art, with a low estimate of £200,000. 

The sale started with Japanese works of art and the highest selling lot was a Meiji Period (1868-1912) cloisonné vase by the Namakawa Yasayuki (1854-1927). It was decorated with a sparrow perched on a flowering branch of prunus on a deep aubergine ground. It sold for £6,930 (Estimate £3,000-5,000).

The highest selling Japanese ceramic lot was a late 17th/early 18th century Nabeshima polychrome dish, painted in underglaze blue and overglaze enamels, featuring five chrysanthemum heads on a scrolling tendril ground to the interior. It sold for £5,040 against a presale estimate of £400-600.

 One of the early lots of the Chinese works of art section was lot 1069, the Qing dynasty treasure chest, which sold for £157,500, which was the highest selling lot of the sale. 

This was followed by an 18th/19th century large imperial zitan panel. It had unfortunately suffered quite a great degree of damage and loss of its inlay, but despite this it sold for £23,940 against an estimate of £1,000-£2,000. 

Another highlight of the works of art section was lot 1202, a rare Qianlong Shangwan mark and period imperial moulded gourd ‘dragon’ bowl. It had been something that I had found at the top of the house in a later visit sitting in a circular bamboo box. It sold for £11,340 (Estimate £800-1,200).

A highlight of the later ceramics sale was lot 1204, the Qianlong seal mark and period doucai ‘medallion’ bowl. It sold for £35,280 against an estimate of £5,000-8,000.

The second highest lot of the later ceramics was lot 1231, the Daoguang yellow-ground ‘Eight Immortals’ bowl with a Sheng de Tang (The Hall for Cultivation of Virtue) mark. After spirited bidding it sold for £19,530 (Estimate £500-1,000).

The sale took over nine and a half hours to complete and realised just over £1m, five times the lower sale estimate, with every lot finding buyers.

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