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Ladies & Gentlemen: A Conundrum: Antique or Forgery?

August 23, 2011

Isn’t this a lovely example of a Han dynasty cocoon vase? Might be one of the most attractive examples I’ve seen – and in the past few days I’ve looked at virtually every one available on the internet. The material is the usual grey ceramic and the form is perfect, the residual pattern and colors are lovely, and there are no cracks or chips. All things considered, a gem of a piece from circa 200 B.C.E.- 220A.D.

The only problem with it is that testing reveals that it was last fired in 1890 +/- 320 years, making it most likely a Ming or Qing Dynasty piece. Fascinating that the Chinese of the time perceived a market for Han antique forgeries. Were they meant to be sold to newly wealthy Chinese clients who could afford antiques or were they meant to be sold to western buyers?

Here’s the conundrum. The piece is a forgery or perhaps we should call it a reproduction, except that it was sold to it’s current owner as a Han cocoon jar.

At this point in time, it’s old enough to be an antique. Not a Han antique, but still an antique. It has intrinsic value as an antique, but not the value of a Ming or Qing vase and certainly not the lesser value of a Han jar.

This is a puzzle that I’d love to flesh out. If anyone can add knowledge, we’ll include it for our mutual enlightenment.

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