We are delighted to announce the top lot in our inaugural Hong Kong auction to be the Thornhill Stem Cup, a stunning Ming Xuande period piece, sold on behalf of Staffordshire University. After a long bidding battle the 600 year old Stem Cup eventually sold for a premium inclusive HK$ 41,560,000 (approximately £3.6million).
The Stem Cup was the highlight of a specially curated sale of Chinese Works of Art produced in-conjunction with our sister saleroom Freeman's of Philadelphia, America's oldest auction house. The Stem Cup's journey to Hong Kong began at Asian Art in London in November 2015 - with its first public exhibition for 20 years - followed by a trip to both Philadelphia and New York in the USA in March before travelling to Hong Kong in perfect time for the prestigious Asian Week Hong Kong festival this May. A tour that provided an international platform for this important piece that spread the story of the Thornhill Collection around the world.
Lee Young, Head of Asian Art at Lyon & Turnbull said “The Ming Xuande (1426-35) mark and period blue and white Stem Cup is a rare masterpiece and is virtually unseen outside museum collections. This is a great result, bringing the sale to Hong Kong has proved to be the right decision for both Lyon & Turnbull and our partner Freeman’s and we are thrilled that Staffordshire University now have funds to properly carry out the wishes of Ernest Thornhill.”
The Stem Cup was the most valuable of 270 items bequeathed to the Staffordshire University by Mr Ernest Thornhill on his death 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, the University appointed Lyon & Turnbull to sell the Stem Cup so that it can raise funds to build a permanent secure new home for the remainder of the collection at its Stoke-on-Trent campus. This resource centre will enable students to access the collection for their study, complying with the original bequest and wishes of Mr Thornhill.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University, Rosy Crehan said: "This is a fabulous result for the University of Staffordshire, it will allow us to care for and display the Thornhill Collection for future generations to enjoy. The funds raised will allow the remaining pieces of Chinese Oriental Ceramics to be curated, conserved and enjoyed in a new Ceramic Education and Research Facility. This is something Ernest Thornhill always hoped for and I am pleased that we will now be able to make his dream come true. ”
Ernest Thornhill was a pharmacist from London who collected Oriental ceramics. He donated several pieces to the British Museum as well as the then North Staffordshire Technical College, which later became Staffordshire University in 1992.