Ming Dynasty ‘Chicken Cup’ sells for world record

A porcelain cup known as the ‘Chicken Cup’ from the Ming Dynasty has today been sold for a world record of over £20 million at an auction in Hong Kong, conducted by Sotheby’s. It was sold to Liu Yiqian, reportedly the 200th richest person in China, with an estimated fortune of over £500 million.

Nicholas Chow, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, said: “This is perhaps among all porcelains ever produced throughout the history of China the most forged. There are tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of copies going around in China. There’s no more legendary object in the history of Chinese porcelain, this is really the holy grail when it comes to Chinese art.”

Arguably the most celebrated porcelain throughout the centuries, delicately potted with flawless translucent sides flaring out from the countersunk base to a subtly everted rim. The exterior painted in faint outlines of cobalt blue under the glaze and picked out in overglaze enamels of yellow, green, light and dark olive green, and two tones of iron red with a lively continuous scene of a red rooster and his golden hen out in a garden with their chicks.


One side of the cup depicting the rooster with his head turned back to see the hen pecking at a red-winged insect on the ground as one of the chicks looks on, while the other two chicks chase each other around a small patch of leaves. The reverse with the proud rooster arching his neck forward raising his head with his beak slightly opened as if to crow, while the hen tends to their brood of chicks.


The hen hunched over pecking at a red-winged insect on the ground as one of the chicks stands on her back and the other two peep for attention in the foreground, the two scenes divided on one side by jagged underglaze blue rocks and yellow lily flowers with bright green leaves, the other side with a rose bush issuing brilliant red flowers and lush leaves next to a blue garden rock.

Chicken Cup Sotherby's

The entire cup painted in an artless style further reflected in the six-character reign mark in underglaze blue framed within double squares inscribed on the countersunk base, the immaculate porcelain body covered with a characteristic silky glaze, pooling on the base slightly veiling the mark
8.2 cm., 3 1/4  in.

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