Very nearly a day having passed by I really don't think it'll be where I'd plonked it back down but it is. I still don't trust it, though. However, having biked into town (in what seemed a moment), I wasn't going away empty handed so I pay the tenner asked and the kind old lady behind the counter swaddles it in bubble wrap for me.
It's huge. And it's bloody heavy too! The shoulder bag I'd thought quite big enough to carry it home naked, barely had the room what with all that cushioning wrapped about it. Nevertheless, I sling it over my shoulder where it hangs precariously whilst I ride back home, one-handed, uphill for most of the way, and against the same tiring wind that'd carried me so effortlessly downtown.
On the way I compute my balance sheet. I'd put a tenner down that would be impossible to get back with that glaring chip in the rim — probably. That'd need to be repaired just to break even. Out of the question. The job would cost ten times that tenner. However, the 20p ladle would probably make £20, there or thereabouts, so that would cover the risk. And besides, the tenner would be have been well spent because I'd learn invaluable things about far eastern pots. Be it modern or ancient. The journey to discovering the which, the why, and the wherefore, would bring forth knowledge — because handling in this business, is everything.
At last I get the bloody great thing through the front door, unswaddle it, lug it up to my 'office' and set to work. First step, a simple Google picture search for 'Chinese vase', which may be akin to entering 'British teapot' and hoping to find 18th Century redware 'crabstock handled' ones — but I reckon it's worth a shot. It works better than 'British teapot', though, which of course yields Union Jack tourist pieces. Lots of antique Chinese vases and quite a few of similar form with those curious little side handles at the neck, but none in that peculiar green/blue hue this one has. At least 'Chinese vase' is a lead.
Nothing else seems to work though. 'Chinese vase big headed man speckled deer' gets me the Daily Mail, and the story of how a British woman missed out on a half million pound fortune because a relative once drilled a hole in the bottom of her Chinese vase to provide access for electrical cable for his Chinese lamp project, destroying the crucial mark that had been there in the process, and slashing the value to just a tenth of its market potential. Still, the £50,000 she got for it is quite a lot of money, so she was happy.
Well, the hole in the bottom of mine slashes the measly value I've already subtracted because of the chip in the rim, so I'm probably stuck with a proper lemon. Drat! At least I now have more relevant search terms. 'Chinese vase hole bottom' seems silly enough to work. It leads me to a nice tutorial on how to make lamps of Chinese vases — luckily the vase chosen for mutilation was not lovely Chinese Ming but minging British Chinese. No ten fold loss there then. Then I strike lucky. Page three yields a crucial fact. That peculiar colour is known as 'Celadon.'
'Celadon vase' yields hundreds of celadon vases. Page after page after page of greeny blue hued pots in all shapes and sizes but nothing even similar till page 21 and there, right in the bottom right hand corner, is exactly what I've been looking for. It's in a terrible mess but it is the same thing. Straight over to Ebay then, where I discover more of the same and most in America with eye opening asking prices in the thousand dollar range.
Blimey. What a find! Who'd have thought that possible from a ten quid blind punt?
The blood's up now...
But that rim chip will halve value if not quarter it from what I know of the antique ceramic collector's pernickitinesses. The hole in the bottom doesn't help either even though these pots never seemed to have been marked there. And besides, Ebay 'Buy it Now' asking prices in the 'antiques' category are often hopeful and usually based upon the last example of the thing that sold superbly well. I suspect that fairly recently one or two of these pots did, and I'm not wrong. I find one at Christie's which made a pretty penny.
Money, money, money. All very well and all that but now I want to know what the hell this pot means. Who is this strange old man with his huge forehead and why is there a speckled deer there, amongst other things?
Well, discovering what the vase was was hard work enough but discovering what it means is quite another thing. But eventually I get a strong lead and a new world opens before my very eyes. The old guy is no ordinary mortal; quite the opposite, actually. It's Shou Lao, the Taoist god of longevity. He rides a speckled deer too. And he has an attendant who often rides twos up on the poor deer with him. That'll be that fella behind him then. Almost there...
But what the hell is that strange looking vegetable he's being offered by the third character? Is it a Halloween pumpkin? A mangel-wurzel?
Well, neither. Turns out it's a peach. And though it seems a whacking great peach to my mind, it is one all the same because this peach is none other than the peach of immortality...
It's all falling into place now. But before I leave the computer I have one last shot at finding more and come across a thumbnail of a piece that looks very familiar. I click on it and am taken to one of my favourite sites for antiques research and there I'm presented with a startling sight for my now weary eyes...
Blimey. I've found the piece!
Blimey. I've found the piece!
It's the very same pot sold at a provincial auction house in the home counties about a year ago. And guess what?
It didn't have a chip out of the rim then...