This bowl was picked up for $35 at a yard sale – only for Sotheby’s auctioneers to identify it as a Ming Dynasty treasure worth up to $500,000 (Picture: AP)
A ceramic bowl bought for $35 at a yard sale turned out to be a 15th Century Chinese masterpiece now set to sell for between $300,000 and $500,000. The intricately-painted blue and white container was picked up at a yard sale in Connecticut.
Its buyer, who hasn’t been named, emailed auction house Sothebys’ New York office asking for advice on its provenance. Sotheby’s Chinese ceramics expert Angela McAteer told of her delight at opening that email to see an undiscovered masterpiece.
She said: ‘It was immediately apparent to both of us that we were looking at something really very, very special. The style of painting, the shape of the bowl, even just the color of the blue is quite characteristic of that early, early 15th century period of porcelain.’
A subsequent test established that the bowl was indeed from the 1400s, and had been manufactured during the Ming Dynasty, famed for its sought after porcelain. McAteer and her colleagues knew by the smoothness of the bowl, silkiness of its glaze, and the color and style of the designs used to decorate it.
She said: ‘All the characteristics and hallmarks are there that identify it as a product of the early Ming period.’
The bowl, which goes up for auction on March 17, is believed to date back to the early 1400s, during the reign of the Yongle emperor – the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty.
He was famed for ushering in a new style of pottery to the city of Jingdezhen’s kilns, which specialists say is evident in the recently-discovered piece.
It was made in the shape of a lotus flower bud, it is decorated with a medallion at the bottom and a motif surrounded by flowers.
The outside of the bowl depicts four blossoms of lotus, peony, chrysanthemum and pomegranate flower.
There are also intricately detailed patterns at the top of both the outside and inside.
There are only six other similar bowls known to exist, most of them in museums – and none in the United States.
How it came to end up in the Connecticut yard sale is a mystery – although McAteer thinks it may have been passed down through generations of a family who did not realize how special it was.
She said: ‘It’s always quite astounding to think that it kind of still happens, that these treasures can be discovered.
‘It’s always really exciting for us as specialists when something we didn’t even know existed here appears seemingly out of nowhere.’
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