Wood you believe it! - Carving estimated at £400 sells for £35,000 at Shrewsbury action

This small wooden carving was expected to raise £400 at auction in Shropshire – and ended up selling for £35,000.

The bamboo carving
The bamboo carving

The Chinese carving sparked a ferocious bidding war when it went under the hammer in Shropshire.

The piece, a small bamboo root carving, was included in the bi-annual Asian Art sale held by Halls Fine Art Auctioneers of Shrewsbury. The sale included 233 lots of antiques and collectables from all over Asia, especially China.

Asian art specialist Alexander Clement has been with Halls since 2015 and has built a thriving department with two dedicated sales each year.

However, he was surprised by an item in the auction when it far exceeded his estimate.

"With every sale there are surprises but this one really does rank up there with the best," he said.

"We started in the low thousands but kept interest on multiple phones and online.

"The bids kept coming and we exceeded £10,000 but still the bidding continued.

Unassuming

"When we passed £20,000 I was beginning to think it had to slow down but we continued to £30,000 and then after a real battle between the two remaining bidders, we ended on an outstanding £35,000."

The unassuming but finely detailed piece looks fairly ordinary from afar.

But on closer inspection, the rocky outcrop is populated by sages and figures walking up a precarious path through gnarled pine trees and caves.

The piece measures just 23cm high and despite being from the popular Qing Dynasty suggested little more to Alexander or the open market that it could achieve such a high price - but clearly the bidders were keen.

The rocky outcrop is populated by sages and figures walking up a precarious path through gnarled pine trees and caves.

Alexander added: "We have had items like this in the past; often small, like the brush pot we sold for £186,000 in 2016, and also very humble in their design. It is clear that the Chinese market knows what it wants and is still willing to pay high prices for sought-after items.

"We have a good reputation for selling items like this and have built up a good following both here in the UK and in China."

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