A find at a garage sale which sold for less than A$50 has gone under the hammer for more than A$900,000.
The item, a bowl, was purchased at a garage sale in the US state of Connecticut for just under A$45 but was auctioned off recently for almost $924,000.
It turns out the bowl was an exceptionally rare 15th century porcelain bowl made in China.
The small white bowl adorned with cobalt blue paintings of flowers and other designs — one of only seven such bowls known to exist in the world — was among a variety of Chinese works of art sold by Sotheby’s as part of its Asia Week events. The names of the seller and buyer were not disclosed.
Sotheby’s had estimated the value of the artifact at $380,000 to $640,000.
The auction included 15 bids, starting at $256,000 from someone online and ending at $742,000 from another person bidding by phone. The official purchase price, which included various fees, was $923,797.
An antiques enthusiast came across the Ming Dynasty-era piece and thought it could be something special when browsing a garage sale in the New Haven area last year, according to Sotheby’s. The buyer later emailed information and photos to Sotheby’s asking for an evaluation.
Angela McAteer, head of Sotheby’s Chinese Works of Art Department, said the result for the “exceptionally rare” bowl “epitomises the incredible”.
Sotheby’s confirmed it was from the 1400s when they were able to look at it in person — there are no scientific tests, only the trained eyes and hands of specialists. The bowl was very smooth to the touch, its glaze was silky and the color and designs are distinctive of the period.
The bowl dates back to the early 1400s during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty, and was made for the Yongle court. The Yongle court was known to have ushered in a new style to the porcelain kilns in the city of Jingdezhen, and the bowl is a quintessential Yongle product, according to Sotheby’s.
The bowl was made in the shape of a lotus bud or chicken heart. Inside, it is decorated with a medallion at the bottom and a quatrefoil motif surrounded by flowers. The outside includes four blossoms of lotus, peony, chrysanthemum and pomegranate flower. There are also intricate patterns at the top of both the outside and inside.
Ms McAteer said only six other such bowls are known to exist, and most of them are in museums. No others are in the United States. There are two at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, two at museums in London and one in the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, according to Sotheby’s.
How the bowl ended up at a Connecticut garage sale remains a mystery.
Ms McAteer said it’s possible it was passed down through generations of the same family who did not know how unique it was.
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