In the Chinese art market of today, although one’s experience and knowledge plays a key factor in determining whether to purchase an object, provenance (a record of ownership of an object throughout history) is now seen to play an ever-increasing role. This is primarily due to the large influx of modern copies we have seen enter the market in all fields, ranging from archaic bronzes and cloisonné, to Ming and Qing dynasty porcelain. It is typical to find that when pieces have provenance, they usually bear a symbol of the hands it has passed through, whether that is a dealer’s label, an auction label or a collection number. Provenance, if available, is usually provided by the vendor as an aid to the customer, highlighting whether it has been in a private collection, a museum, an exhibition, a previous auction or even published. Many scholars now believe that the provenance of a piece provides somewhere between 20% to 40% of the objects total value. We believe that this figure and the significance of provenance will continue to rise corresponding with the level of modern copies in the market.

Since the turn of the 21st century, with significant rising prices in the Chinese art market, there has been a directly associated rise in fraud. This is not just in terms of the aforementioned modern copies, but also the manufacturing of provenance for the copies, the copying of old labels and even the theft of labels from genuine pieces later placed on modern copies. It is the combination of these, which has led the market to occasionally lack the confidence and trust it once had. Although copies of objects such as Chinese porcelain have been in production for hundreds of years, today we see far more copies in circulation than ever before. Thankfully, the experts at Marchant have the knowledge and understanding to identify genuine objects from the copies.

Every week we are contacted by customers who have seen ‘Marchant’ labels on pieces at various locations such as galleries or auctions, and they wish to verify whether we did once handle the pieces in question. More often than not, these seemingly old and stained ‘Marchant’ labels are imitations, commonly placed on a subject piece of porcelain in an attempt to bring some provenance to the piece (as seen in the photographs below). Although it is difficult for customers to verify ‘Marchant’ labels themselves, we strongly recommend contacting us so that we can pass judgment on the label and ensure that our clients are not being tricked by fraudulent activity.

Examples of imitation ‘Marchant’ labels.

As mentioned, these labels are deliberately aged, stained and worn to look more authentic and have been appearing in the U.K, the East and West coast of America and even Hong Kong.