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MING CUP FOUND AT UNIVERSITY FETCHES £3M AT AUCTION

A stunning Stem Cup from the Ming Xuande period, discovered in storage at Staffordshire University, has sold at auction for over £3 million.

The 600 year old 'Thornhill' Stem Cup, part of a collection of 276 oriental items, had been in the possession of the university since it was bequeathed to them in 1944 by London pharmacist, Ernest Thornhill.

Thornhill Stem Cup

Thornhill was an avid collecter of Oriental ceramics, steadily building his collection over 40 years.  The items at the university had originally been sent there by him for safeguarding during the London Blitz in World War II. As a gesture of thanks and appreciation for its generosity in keeping his collection, Mr Thornhill bequeathed the items to the university for future students to study and enjoy.  

The university rediscovered the collection in hidden storage, and appointed Edinburgh-based Lyon and Turnbull to sell the Stem Cup to raise funds for building a secure new home on the Stoke-on-Trent campus for the rest of the collection.  The proposed new centre will provide access to students for their study, as per the bequest of Mr Thornhill.

Lyon & Turnbull presented the Thornhill Stem Cup as the highlight of its inaugural Hong Kong auction, a specially curated sale of Chinese works of art, held in conjunction with their sister salesroom and America's oldest auction house, Freeman's of Philadelphia.

The stem cup was subject to a long bidding war, finally selling for HK$41,560,000 (approximately £3.6 million in May 2016).

Not only did the stem cup raise a spectacular amount for the university, but its journey from Asian Art in London in November 2015, to Philadelphia, New York, and finally Hong Kong for the prestigious Asian Week Hong Kong festival in May, also provided an excellent platform for bringing the Thornhill collection to the attention of the world, ultimately awarding the little known Mr Thornhill his rightful place in history.