May 27, 2022 1:53 p.m.
The artwork’s last owner purchased it for just a few hundred pounds. Photo courtesy of Dreweatts
The rare, blue-and-gold vessel was crafted in 18th-century China
When Mark Newstead first saw the blue-and-gold porcelain vase sitting in his friend’s kitchen in the late 1990s, he thought it looked familiar. Based on the colors, design, and shape of the vessel, the Asian ceramics and artworks consultant for auction house Dreweatts had a gut feeling it wasn’t any ordinary decoration.
Sure enough, reports CNN’s Sana Noor Haq, his hunch was correct. The vase was actually a rare 18th-century ceramic from China’s Qing Dynasty. And despite an original valuation of around $186,000, it just sold for $1.8 million at auction.
The two-foot-tall artifact was bought in the 1980s by a surgeon in England for a few hundred pounds, Dreweatts said in a statement. He then passed it down to his son, Newstead’s friend, who displayed it in his kitchen and drawing room.
The vase’s earlier provenance is unclear, and according to Live Science’s Owen Jarus, that gives at least one expert not involved with the sale pause.
The combination of silver and gold enamel would have been difficult to craft. Photo courtesy of Dreweatts
Justin Jacobs, a history professor at American University who studies the plunder of Chinese cultural artifacts, tells Live Science it could have been a gift from the emperor later sold under duress in the 20th century, or taken as a spoil of war during the military plunders of 1860 or 1901.
“We just don’t know [how the vase left China] and likely we never will,” Jacobs says.
A six-character mark on the bottom of the vessel is associated with the Qianlong emperor, who between 1736 and 1795 ruled as the Qing Dynasty’s sixth emperor. Spanning from 1644 to 1912, it was China’s last imperial dynasty.
Characters on the bottom of the vase indicate it was made during the Qing Dynasty. Photo courtesy of Dreweatts
Over the Qing period, China tripled in land size and grew its population from 150 million to 450 million. Major developments in commerce and culture occurred early on, but by the late 19th century rulers struggled to govern a massive population, leading to government inefficiency and corruption. Revolution, colonial interference and social unrest finally caused the dynasty’s demise. […]
Continue reading: A Vase Kept in an Ordinary Kitchen Turned Out to Be a Qing-Dynasty Artwork Worth Millions