If you’ve got some old antiques or trinkets gathering dust that you’ve been meaning to get valued, now may be the time.
A family in France has just become a whole lot richer after discovering an old vase that had been sitting in their attic for decades was actually an 18th century piece from China worth millions. In fact, Sotheby’s, one of the world’s leading auction houses, sold the Imperial Yangcai Crane and Deer Ruyi vase for 20 times the estimated price, fetching a cool €16.2 million (A$25.1 million, US$19 million, GBP£14.2 million). For Sotheby’s France, it was the highest price for a single item in the organisation’s history.
It is thought the vase had been sitting in the attic since 1947, after the seller’s uncle passed away. The vase was originally given to him by his own grandparents, according to Sotheby’s.
“My colleague from Paris one day gets a phone call from a lady telling him she has this vase that’s been sitting in an attic for a couple of decades and she would like to bring it in,” Nicholas Chow, Chairman of Chinese Works of Art at Sotheby’s, said in a video shared by the auction house.
Chow explained that the women, unaware the vase was worth as much as it was, took the rare item in a shoebox with some newspaper for protection on a train and travelled to Paris to get it valued. He described it as one of “the finest, most dazzling” pieces of porcelain. When assessing the item, staff quickly noticed the official seal-mark of the Qianlong Emperor, said to be one of the most powerful men in the world during the 18th century.
Chow believes the vase was given as a wedding gift, with the unique, bulb-shaped vase painted in a variety of vibrant colours including green, blue, yellow and purple. Remarkably, the vase features an array of animals and plants including deer, birds and pine trees and includes exquisite gold embroidery around the neck. The nine deer, five cranes and pine trees were symbols of health and longevity when the vase was original created.
“The vase is of exceptional rarity: the only known example of its kind, it was produced by the Jingdezhen workshops for the magnificent courts of the Qianlong Emperor (1735-1796),” a statement by Sotheby’s read. “Famille Rose porcelains of the period (or yangcai porcelains, as they are known) are extremely rare on the market, with most examples currently housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei and other museums around the world.
“These so-called yangcai porcelain commissions were the very epitome of the ware produced by the Jingdezhen imperial kilns. They were made as one-of-a-kind items, sometimes in pairs, but never in 3 large quantities. This technique combined a new colour palette with Western-style compositions. Beyond their superior quality, yangcai enamels were intended to create the most opulent and luxurious effect possible.”
It comes after a grandmother discovered a vase she kept stored in her garage for 11 years sold for £87,000 (AU$156,000).