Rare Chinese jade horse for sale after chance meeting at petrol station
A magnificent Ming dynasty jade horse from a highly important collection has emerged for sale in a provincial UK auction house - after a chance encounter at a petrol station.
The exquisite item, possibly an Imperial commission, shows the animal in a recumbent position, its head turned and ears pointed.
It was carved in jade of sea-green hue incorporating russet and brown tones and it measures 9.2ins (23.5cm).
The horse is now going under the hammer at Duke's auction house in Dorchester, Dorset, with an estimate of £100,000.
It dates from the 17th century - either late Ming or early Qing dynasty - and has caused a great deal of interest among collectors.
A group of similar horses was exhibited in 1975 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The sale of the horse is being held on Thursday and it all stems from a chance encounter on a petrol station forecourt.
A retired academic sinologist and enthusiast of Chinese art who lived in China at the end of the Cultural Revolution and who has visited regularly over the last 40 years, helped a woman who had locked her keys in her car.
She revealed her husband was a keen collector of antiques and the jade horse was discovered among his collection.
Andrew Marlborough, an expert from Duke's auctioneers, viewed the objects and quickly realised how important and exciting it was.
He said: "Most of the best pieces of the collection were purchased from a highly-respected group of London dealers from the 1950s to the 1990s and many of the receipts for these are available for inspection.
"The gentleman who collected them was for many years a member of the Oriental Ceramics Society and we know that he often asked deeply thoughtful questions about things before and after purchase.
"The jade horse is incredibly rare and quite exceptional and is from the same group as those exhibited in 1975 at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It has a finely carved mane and the face has a serene and confident expression communicated through the crisply-defined mouth, nostrils and eyes.
"There has already been a great deal of interest in this beautiful object not only because of the astonishing workmanship but also because of the subject."