Million pound Ming takes the biscuit

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Bonhams-GoldMingCarpJar

By Cara Sulieman

A MING vase with connections to an old biscuit company sold for £1.1 million – shattering the modest quarter of a million estimate.

The delicate 500-year-old Chinese creation is from a collection owned by Reginald Palmer, the chairman of the Huntley and Palmer biscuit company.

Bought for a mere £55 – the Palmer family certainly made a profit when the popular item went under the hammer at the Bonhams Chinese Art Sale.

After the sale Colin Sheaf, head of Asian art said: “Items like this with impeccable provenance, great rarity and the highest quality always seem to retain their value and in fact grow it over the years.

“There is only a very limited number of objects of this rarity and beauty available.”

Emperor Jiajing

It dates from the Ming dynasty and was created in the reign of Emperor Jiajing in 1522 – 66.

The jar, brightly painted in blue and gold with golden carp, symbolises wealth and success – indicating the high status of its original owner.

It is not known who first owned the vase, or how it came to the UK – the first record of it was when Charles Russell auctioned it off in 1935.

The vase was then bought by Bluett and Sons, a London dealer specialising in Chinese art, who in turn sold it to Reginald Palmer for £55.

Chinese art

At the time, Palmer was known for his extensive collection of Chinese art, especially porcelain and jade.

He bought it during a period when Chinese art was flooding the market during the breakdown of the Chinese monarchy.

Huge amounts of Imperial Palace art was being sold off to art dealers in China who then shipped it across to London, making collecting easy.

The vase itself is rare, different from the vast majority of Chinese art that was coming out of the country via the English East India Company.

Golden carp

An annual shipment of Chinese export goods was brought across to furnish houses across Britain with furniture, wallpaper and porcelain goods.

But the golden carp jar would not have been among these items as it was too expensive to be shipped en masse.

Reginald Palmer was the chairman of the Palmer and Huntley biscuit company based in Reading.

Quaker Joseph Huntley first set it up in 1822 as J Huntley and Son.

When he went into partnership with George Palmer in 1841 the company became Huntley and Palmer.

Manderston House

The Huntley family discontinued their connection to the biscuit and cake company in 1857, when Joseph’s son Henry sold his share to George Palmer for almost £34,000.

Since then, the Palmer family have been involved in the biscuit family throughout the generations.

An American company bought Huntley and Palmer’s parent company, Associated Biscuits, in the 1980’s.

The current Baron Palmer, Adrian Palmer of Manderston near Duns, worked with the company when he was younger, before getting heavily involved with farming and land management.

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