Talk about your garage sale findings. A small porcelain bowl bought for $ 35 at a Connecticut yard sale turned out to be a rare 15th-century Chinese artifact worth between $ 300,000 and $ 500,000 that is about to be auctioned at Sotheby’s.
The white bowl adorned with cobalt blue flower paintings and other designs is approximately 6 inches (16 cm) in diameter. An antiques enthusiast came across the piece and thought it might be something special when exploring a yard sale in the New Haven area last year, according to Sotheby’s.
The piece, one of only seven such bowls known to exist in the world, will go up for auction in New York on March 17 as part of Sotheby’s Major Chinese Art Auction.
The buyer, who is not being identified, paid the sale price of $ 35 and then emailed information and photos to Sotheby’s requesting an appraisal. The auction house experts on Chinese ceramics and art, Angela McAteer and Hang Yin, receive many emails of this type every week, but this is one of those who dream.
“It was immediately apparent to both of us that we were seeing something really, very special,” said McAteer, Sotheby’s senior vice president and head of its China art department. “The style of the painting, the shape of the bowl, even the color blue, is quite characteristic of that early 15th century porcelain period.”
They confirmed it was from 1400 when they were able to see it in person.
There is no scientific proof, only trained eyes and specialist hands. The bowl was very soft to the touch, its glaze was silky and the color and patterns are characteristic of the time.
“All the features and hallmarks are there that identify it as a product of the early Ming period,” McAteer said.
McAteer and Yin determined that 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 introduced a new style to porcelain kilns in the city of Jingdezhen, and the bowl is a quintessential Yongle product, according to Sotheby’s.
The bowl was shaped like a lotus bud or a chicken heart. Inside, it is decorated with a medallion at the bottom and a quatrefoil motif surrounded by flowers. The exterior includes four flowers of lotus, peony, chrysanthemum, and pomegranate flower. There are also intricate patterns on top of both the exterior and interior.
McAteer said only six other such bowls are known to exist, and most of them are in museums. There are no others in the United States. There are two in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, two in London museums and one in the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, according to Sotheby’s.
How the bowl ended up at a Connecticut yard sale remains a mystery. McAteer said it may have been passed down through generations of the same family who didn’t know how unique it was.
“It’s always quite surprising to think that it still happens, that these treasures can be discovered,” McAteer said. “It’s always very exciting for us as specialists when something we didn’t even know existed here appears seemingly out of nowhere.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism