A Chinese vase that once sold for $56 just went for more than $12 million at a Saturday auction.
The vase in question, described by Sotheby’s as a “lost masterpiece,” was identified as an 18th-century artifact by Dutch art consultant Johan Bosch van Rosenthal, who happened upon it while visiting an elderly client’s home.
The unusual design — a mix of turquoise, purple and gold colours with lattice and flora detailing — was made for the Qianlong emperor, Sotheby’s says, and sat for 50 years in a remote home in central Europe.
It somehow survived all these years, despite being surrounded by the previous owner’s many cats and dogs.
“It is a miracle that this extraordinarily fragile vase survived half a century in a home surrounded by countless pets,” Nicolas Chow, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, said in a statement before the sale.
The global auction house shared the story of the vase’s finding on its official YouTube channel. In the video, Rosenthal describes going to an 80-year-old’s home to assess her collection.
“We reached a room with a number of Chinese works of art inherited many years ago,” he says. “Her four cats walked around freely among these. She pointed out a … partly gilded Chinese vase on a cupboard — a cherished object which she knew to be something special and valuable.”
Sotheby’s experts were able to match the item to others in their Chinese imperial households archives.
Sotheby’s was also able to trace back the vase’s history, finding it was first sold through the company for $56 (around $1,500 in today’s currency) in 1954. It was sold again later that year for just over $100 and was passed down through a family until last week’s whopping sale.
It seems over the past few years that stumbling upon ancient, big-ticket items has become a trend.
In 2018, an 18th-century vase was found hidden in a shoebox in a French family’s attic and sold for around $19 million, CNN reported at the time.
Last year, a 13th-century painting by Italian artist Cimabue was found in an elderly woman’s home in Compiegne, France. It was appraised at $8.7 million.
Moral of the story: take a look through your grandparents’ basement.