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Life-saving cleric’s vases auctioned

26 July 2013


Ornamental:the 200-year-old Chinese vases to be auctioned

Ornamental:the 200-year-old Chinese vases to be auctioned

THEY stand five feet tall, come from southern China, and commemorate the life-saving action of a fly-fishing vicar in the 19th century. Later this year, they are expected to return to their homeland, after fetching up to £100,000 under the hammer.

Last week, Duke's Auctioneers revealed the story behind one of the treasures in its Asian art collection. The two vases, believed to have been fired during the reign of the Daoguang Emperor who ruled China from 1820 until 1850, were sent from China as a gift to the Revd Samuel Edward Valpy Filleul by a rich trader.

As a boy in the late 1880s, the trader had been saved from drowning in a river in Lancashire by Mr Filleul, a keen fisherman. The cleric then paid for the boy's education, and the vases were a token of gratitude after the young man made his fortune in China.

The vases have remained in the Filleul family since his death in 1931, and, before their transfer to Duke's, stood in a house in Poole Harbour.

"They are of fabulous quality," the Asian art specialist at the auctioneers', Andrew Marlborough, said on Tuesday. "Firing any kind of porcelain is a technically difficult process, especially when there are lots of different coloured enamels on the surface. Firing ones five feet tall brings with it some technical challenges; so it is quite amazing they were created at all and have survived until today."

The vases will go under the hammer on 7 November. Descendants of Mr Filleul are selling them now because of a strong market for Chinese works of art, Mr Marlborough said. "People . . . want to buy back their cultural heritage. It's very likely they will end up going back to China."

Mr Filleul was ordained priest in 1880, and served his curacy at Charles Church, Plymouth, and in Wareham, Dorset. He was Vicar of Highcliffe, Hampshire, from 1887 to 1889, and Rector of All Saints', Dorchester, until he retired in 1918.

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