Rare Ming wine cup sells for record $36m

A 500-year-old Ming wine cup has sold at auction for a staggering US$36.05 million (£21.5 million), breaking the world record for the most expensive piece of Chinese porcelain ever sold.

An image of a replica wine 'chicken' cup by Jingdezhen ware.

An image of a replica wine ‘chicken’ cup by Jingdezhen ware.

The rare porcelain cup, known as a chicken cup because of its cockerel, hen and chick design, was sold at a Sotheby’s sale of modern and contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong on Tuesday to Shanghai tycoon and art collector Liu Yiqian, according to a report by channelnewsasia.com.

The tiny cup, just 3.1 inches in diameter, was made during the reign of the Chenghua Emperor between 1465 and 1487 with Sothebys estimating there to be just 17 left in the world – four known to be in private collections.

This sale sets a new record beating the previous record held by a gourd-shaped vase from the Qianlong period, which sold for HK$252.66 million (US$32.58 million) in 2010.

The previous world record for the most expensive piece of Ming Dynasty porcelain had been held by a blue and white vase that sold for HK$168.66 million ($21.67m) in 2011.

Nicolas Chow, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, described the cup as the “holy grail” of Chinese art.

He said: “There is no more legendary object in the history of Chinese porcelain. This is an object bathed in mythology.

“It has gone to an extraordinarily good home in Shanghai in the collection of Liu Yiqian.”

Bidding for the cup started at HK$160 million ($20m), with Liu securing the piece with a telephone bid.

50-year-old Liu, a taxi-driver turned financier, is one of China’s wealthiest people worth an estimated US$1.6 billion with two museums to his name.

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