Chinese cannon smashes arms auction estimate

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27 May 2011
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imports_MIL_17thcenturyqingdynasty_54991.gif 17th century Qing Dynasty cannon
Cowans Auctions in Cincinnati enjoyed an unexpected peak of interest in their recent Historic Firearms sale in April, when two phone bidders battled for nearly five minutes over the opening lot. ...

Cowans Auctions in Cincinnati enjoyed an unexpected peak of interest in their recent Historic Firearms sale in April, when two phone bidders battled for nearly five minutes over the opening lot.

A 17th century Qing Dynasty cannon had a top estimate of $15,000, but sold eventually for a staggering $149,500. Built in 1695 its design was inspired by the noted Flemish Jesuit Missionary and Imperial confidant Ferdinand Verbiest.

Only 17 Verbiest cast guns bearing his name are known to exist, mainly in European museums.

The cannon was taken from the Ha Ta gate during the multinational attack on the walls on the Tartar City on August 13th and 14th, 1900. The gun was shipped back to the United States as a war souvenir by Colonel Webb C. Hayes, son of Rutherford B. Hayes.

Recently, Chinese bidders have been combing international auctions as part of a national operation to reclaim pieces of historic cultural value.

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Some lots have been hammered down at absurdly high prices in a desperate effort by government-backed bidders – in several cases it was suggested the bidders were unable to pay, yet intended to sabotage the sale. There is no evidence in this instance that this is the case here, though the price would seem inconsistent with true market value: a similar cannon sold for £45,000 in London in June 2010.

 

Find this news story and more in the June/July 2011 issue of Classic Arms & Militaria