Yard sale find turns out to be Chinese artifact worth up to $ 500,000
Talk about your garage sale findings. A small porcelain bowl purchased for US $ 35 at a garage sale in Connecticut has been found to be a rare 15th-century Chinese artifact valued between $ 300,000 and US $ 500,000 that is on the not to be auctioned at Sotheby’s.
The white bowl decorated with cobalt blue paintings of flowers and other designs measures approximately 16 centimeters in diameter. An antique enthusiast stumbled upon the piece and thought it might be something special while browsing a garage sale in the New Haven area last year, according to Sotheby’s.
The piece, one of seven such bowls known to exist in the world, will be auctioned in New York on March 17 as part of Sotheby’s Important Chinese Art auction.
‘Something very, very special’
The buyer, who has not been named, paid the asking price of US $ 35 and then sent information and photos to Sotheby’s to request an appraisal. Chinese ceramic and art auction house experts Angela McAteer and Hang Yin get lots of such emails every week, but this is one they’ve been dreaming of.
“It was immediately obvious to both of us that we were looking for something really, very, very special,” said McAteer, Sotheby’s senior vice president and head of its Chinese artwork department. “The style of painting, the shape of the bowl, even just the color of the blue is quite characteristic of this porcelain period of the early 15th century.”
They confirmed it was from the 1400s when they got to watch it in person. There are no scientific tests, only trained eyes and hands. The bowl was very smooth to the touch, its glaze was silky and the color and designs are characteristic of the time.
Beginning of the Ming period
“All of the features and brands are there that identify it as an early Ming period product,” McAteer said.
McAteer and Yin determined that the bowl dates back to the early 1400s during the reign of Emperor Yongle, the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty, and was designed for the Yongle court. The Yongle court was known to have ushered in a new style in porcelain kilns in Jingdezhen City, 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 features four lotus, peony, chrysanthemum and pomegranate flowers. There are also intricate designs at the top of the exterior and interior.
McAteer said only six other such bowls exist and most are in museums. No other is in the United States. There are two at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, two in museums in London and one at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, according to Sotheby’s.
How the bowl ended up at a Connecticut garage sale remains a mystery. McAteer said it’s possible it was passed down through generations of the same family who didn’t know how unique it was.
“It’s still pretty amazing to think that this is still happening, that these treasures can be discovered,” McAteer said. “It’s always really exciting for us as specialists when something that we didn’t even know existed here seemingly comes out of nowhere.