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Wed, 05 Aug 2020 08:06:27 -0500
2017-11-29 Print

Chinese Archaic Bronzes Defy Auction Estimates

Collection of Chinese bronzes belonging to the late Jean-Claude Lepileur from the Shang to Han dynasties 12th century B.C. to 3rd century A.D. make staggering figures at Sussex auctioneers, Gorringes


Surrey, UK -- It was a chilly, but otherwise unremarkable November morning when an East Sussex auction house opened its doors to the public. But those in attendance and online worldwide were buzzing with excitement as Gorringes were about to commence the sale of one of the most important collections of Chinese archaic bronzes to come on the market for decades.

However, to everybody’s astonishment and just ten minutes into the auction, the atmosphere in the sale room electrified as the gavel came down to end the bidding on lot two; a Zou Dynasty 10th-12th BC Chinese bronze ritual wine vessel. The vessel, part of a collection of Chinese archaic bronzes to be auctioned that day, was estimated to sell for £15,000 - £25,000 — the final sale price was a jaw-dropping £150,000, and it wasn’t the only item to sell well above initial estimates, with lot 35, a rare Chinese archaic bronze tripod ritual, 11th century BC food vessel estimated at £8000/£12,000 fell under the hammer at a staggering price of £190,000.

By the end of the day, the collection contributed to a sale the auctioneers, Gorringes, labelled, “a huge success,” grossing around £700,000. The initial put the value of the collection at £160,000/£180,00, so a good result for the beneficiaries.

The story of the incredible auction began months earlier when Avery Associates were asked to value the chattels of the estate of Jean-Claude Lepileur; a historian, chemist, and restorer with a particular passion for ancient Chinese bronze artefacts, which he collected avidly throughout his life. Mr Lepileur passed away, aged ninety, and his family sought the expertise of Jeffrey Avery to manage the liquidation of the collection as part of the estate.

As part of that process, a comprehensive inventory of chattels from Mr Lepileur’s former home had to be compiled. It was during that inventory Jeffrey spotted several artefacts and realised their potential value then sought the joint assistance of Lewes based Gorringes who specialise in Chinese works of art.

“It was clear early on that Mr Lepileur was a passionate collector of antiquities,” Jeffrey commented. “Although to the untrained eye, many of the items weren’t of obvious value. Fortunately for Mr Lepileur’s family, we’ve been doing this a long time and immediately flagged the potential value of the antiquities.”

As part of their estate management service, Avery Associates called in antiquity experts from Gorringes auctioneers and they confirmed Jeffrey’s initial assessment. On agreement with the family, the entire collection was catalogued and transported to the auction house. The rest, as they say, is history.

Commenting on the success of the auction, Jeffrey added, “I think this goes to prove the importance of expert help when dealing with the estate of a family member. While Mr Lepileur’s collection was exceptional, we often unearth items many would label worthless but prove otherwise at auction. We’ve identified all manner of fascinating, and valuable, chattels from old cars to stamp collections.”

Asked to confirm his advice to those tasked with handling probate, Jeffrey was clear on the importance of bringing in experts: “Don’t cut corners by trying to do everything yourself. There are many good reasons why the estate of a deceased individual should be properly managed, not least for tax purposes. And in the example of Mr Lepileur’s estate, ensuring potentially valuable items are identified.”

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Avery Associates
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Phone: +44 208 640 0044