Yard sale find turns out to be artefact worth up to USD500,000

HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) — Talk about your yard sale finds. A small porcelain bowl bought for USD35 at a Connecticut yard sale turned out to be a rare, 15th Century Chinese artefact worth between USD300,000 and USD500,000 that is about to go up for auction at Sotheby’s.

The white bowl adorned with cobalt blue paintings of flowers and other designs is about 16 centimetres in diameter. An antiques enthusiast came across the piece and thought it could be something special when browsing 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 be up for auction in New York on March 17 as part of Sotheby’s Auction of Important Chinese Art.

The buyer, whom is not being named, paid the USD35 asking price and later emailed information and photos to Sotheby’s asking for an evaluation. The auction house’s experts on Chinese ceramics and art, Angela McAteer and Hang Yin, get many such emails every week, but this was one of the kind they dream about.

“It was immediately apparent to both of us that we were looking at something really very, very special,” said McAteer, Sotheby’s Senior Vice President and head of its Chinese Works of Art Department. “The style of painting, the shape of the bowl, even just the colour of the blue is quite characteristic of that early, early 15th Century period of porcelain.”

They 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 colour and designs are distinctive of the period.

“All the characteristics and hallmarks are there that identify it as a product of the early Ming period,” McAteer said.

McAteer and Yin determined 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.