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'Next to Miraculous' $9M Vase Found in Old Woman's Cupboard

Rediscovered Chinese porcelain dating back 275 years kept in open cupboard near cats, dogs
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2020 9:50 AM CDT
Updated Aug 8, 2020 11:31 AM CDT

(Newser) – A delicate Chinese porcelain vase believed to have been crafted for an emperor 275 years ago has sold for more than $9 million after turning up in a cupboard in a country home in central Europe. The rare find—actually two vases in one, with a pierced outer layer of yangcai ("foreign colors") and an inner layer painted in traditional blue and white—was once owned by British collector Harry Garner, who sold it for the modern-day equivalent of $1,500 in 1954, according to Sotheby's. Some time later, a woman inherited the vase without knowing much about its worth—that is, until a Sotheby's expert arrived to inspect it, per Atlas Obscura. The auction house says double-walled vases like this one were only made over two years in the early 1740s, during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor.

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Overseen by imperial kiln supervisor Tang Ying, "the extremely small group of pierced, double-walled vases that were produced for the Qianlong Emperor provided probably the greatest technical challenge ever for the potters at the imperial kilns," a ceramics scholar notes. "The perfection of the execution is next to miraculous." Sotheby's says imperial records suggest the emperor considered the vase a masterwork and displayed it at the Palace of Heavenly Purity, where he hosted banquets. Before realizing its value, its most recent owner kept the foot-tall vase with Rococo-style flowers and celadon-green lattice in an open cupboard in a home with multiple cats and dogs, per Smithsonian. It sold last month at auction in Hong Kong for just over $9 million. (Read more Sotheby's stories.)

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