A First World War soldier’s remarkable collection of Chinese jade which was passed down to his son has sold for almost £2.5m.

Coldstream Guards Captain Neville Lawrence’s passion for the ornamental mineral stemmed from a piece he was gifted by his wife Sarah in the 1930s.

He built his collection over 25 years and left it to his only child when he died in 1959 at the age of 68.

The tradition was carried on by Murray Lawrence who acquired more coveted jade pieces.

He passed away two years ago at the age of 86 and the jade collection was sold by members of the family.

Asian art specialist Freya Yuan-Richards with the Jade collection left by Murray Lawrence

Asian art specialist Freya Yuan-Richards with the Jade collection left by Murray Lawrence

The auction included this 12th century east Indian Mahasri Tara statue which had an estimate of £80,000 but sold for £478,800

The auction included this 12th century east Indian Mahasri Tara statue which had an estimate of £80,000 but sold for £478,800

The £2.5million Jade collection was collated by Neville Lawrence for 24 years until his death in 1959 and continued by his son Murray

The £2.5million Jade collection was collated by Neville Lawrence for 24 years until his death in 1959 and continued by his son Murray

Neville Lawrence (1891-1959) and Murray Lawrence (1935-2021) 

Neville Lawrence, the younger son of Sir Walter Lawrence and Lilian James, was born in Kashmir, India, in 1891. As a Captain in the Coldstream Guards, he fought in World War One where he was wounded twice. 

He later became a banker and member of the London Stock Exchange, marrying Sarah Butler in 1933. He held the position of High Sheriff of Surrey in 1949. Neville’s lifelong passion for jade was ignited by a piece of jade gifted to him by his wife, resulting in the building of this exceptional collection, primarily sourced through Spink & Son, London. 

Upon his death in 1959 he bequeathed the collection to his only child, Murray. 

Murray Lawrence was born in 1935, he was educated at Winchester College before going up to Trinity College, Oxford. A passionate sportsman, he represented the university at both cricket and golf. After graduating he began his career at Lloyd’s of London as an underwriter at C T Bowring. 

He was appointed Chairman of Lloyd’s of London in 1988, a position he held for two years. He married Sally O’Dwyer in 1961 and had two daughters. In retirement he became captivated by the collection and added to it even further.

Source: Wooley & Wallis 

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It sparked a bidding war at auctioneers Woolley & Wallis, of Salisbury, Wiltshire, with all 34 lots sold.

Most of the pieces dated from the 18th century which was a ‘highly significant’ period in the history of jade carving.

The top performing lot was a rare 7ins tall Chinese white jade ‘bamboo’ vase made during the Qianlong period (1736-95) which fetched £690,000 – nearly nine times its £80,000 estimate.

The Qianlong Emperor was said to be ‘obsessed with jade’ and palace craftsmen in the Mid-Qing period ‘perfected the skill’.

A pair of Spanish green jade ‘dragon’ seals achieved £415,800, while an Imperial white incense burner and cover went for £252,000.

A pair of Chinese Imperial white jade jars and covers which previously belonged to Queen Maria of Yugoslavia (1900-61) sold for £182,700.

John Axford, head of Asian art at Woolley & Wallis, said: “This collection was not only expertly curated and temptingly fresh to the market; it also included several highly desirable pieces of Imperial Chinese jade from one of the most important eras of Chinese jade production.

“There was competitive bidding on a number of the lots, resulting in prices that were substantially higher than the original estimate.”

The art of jade carving dates back several thousand years in China, with the hardstone prized for its ‘toughness, durability, and aesthetic and tactile qualities’.

Neville, the younger son of Sir Walter Lawrence, was born in Kashmir, India, and twice wounded during the Great War.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Daily Mail

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