Chinese Art

The Thornhill Stem Cup | Global Tour Begins This March

After its first public exhibition in over 20 years at Asian Art in London 2015, the Lyon & Turnbull Asian Art Department prepare to take The Thornhill Stem Cup on its global preview tour ahead of its sale in Hong Kong this May.

Considered by leaders in the field to be the most important piece of porcelain to come out of the UK in a decade, the sale of the piece is much anticipated and great attention is expected at preview events. The tour will begin first at Freeman’s of Phildelphia from 10-11 March, then to New York at the magnificent Carlton Hobbs Gallery from 14-16 March during Asia Week New York. From there, the piece will be exhibited during Asia Week Hong Kong on the 28 -30 May, before the auction on the 31 May 2016.



Lyon Turnbull at AAIL


The Stem Cup was the most valuable of 270 items bequeathed to the Staffordshire University by a collector named Mr Ernest Thornhill in 1944, having originally been sent there during wartime to safeguard the collection. Upon rediscovering the collection, which has been hidden away in storage for a significant number of years, it is with great privilege that the University appointed Lyon & Turnbull to auction the Stem Cup in order to raise essential funds to build a permanent new home for the remainder of the collection at its Stoke-on-Trent campus. This resource centre will enable student access to the collection for their study, complying with the original bequest and wishes of Mr Thornhill.



Lyon & Turnbull - Asian art in London 2015


Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University, Rosy Crehan, comments: "Whilst to some it may seem unfortunate to have to sell one item from a collection, this is simply being done for the greater benefit of University students, and indeed the wider public. The funds raised will finally allow the remaining 269 pieces to be curated, conserved and enjoyed in a facility that will attract a broader audience to Staffordshire, complementing what is, the heart of the British ceramics industry. An appropriate tribute to the Stem Cup will feature in this display. ”

The Stem Cup will be the highlight of our inaugural Hong Kong auction that will be produced in partnership with Freeman's of Philadelphia. The select 80-100 lot auction of Chinese Works of Art will take place at the prestigious Liang Yi Museum in the heart of the city's antiques district.



Liang Yi Museum


Rosy Crehan continues: "The Thornhill Collection is an important part of the University’s heritage and an exciting part of our future. The sale of the Stem Cup is enabling the University to tell the story of the Thornhill collection to a global audience. The journey began at Asian Art in London in November when the Stem Cup was publically exhibited in the UK for the first time in 20 years. Its exhibition in America in March and then in Hong Kong in May ahead of the sale, will provide the first international platform for this important piece and will spread the story of the Thornhill Collection far and wide."


The Thornhill Stem Cup on display



The Stem Cup will feature in Ming, the 4th Episode of Michael Wood’s BBC 2 documentary The Story of China which airs on 11 February 2016.


Read more online







Philadephia Preview | Freeman's | 10-11 March 2016

New York Preview | Carlton Hobbs, New York | 14-16 March 2016

Hong Kong | Liang Yi Museum

Viewing | 28-30 May 2016

Hong Kong Auction | 31 May 2016



For further information please contact our Head of Department

Lee Young | | 0207 930 9115


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