Chinese vase found in shoebox in French attic sells for 16.2 million euros.
The vase, which was stored for decades along with other items inherited by the French seller, fetched the highest price reached for a single item sold by auction house Sotheby’s.
It went for more than 20 times its estimated price tag of €500,000.
Sotheby’s Asian arts expert Olivier Valmier said the seller had delivered the precious vase by hand in a shoebox wrapped in newspaper.
“When she put the box on my desk and we opened it we were all stunned by the beauty of the piece,” he said.
He added: “This is a major work of art… it is as if we had just discovered a Caravaggio.”
The 30cm, bulb-shaped ‘yangcai’ vase was made for an emperor of the Qing dynasty and features gold embroidery around its neck and an extremely ornate design depicting deer, birds and other fauna in a forest.
A bowl from this period sold for $30m (£22.5m) at a Sotheby’s auction last April – another example of the colossal prices that rare porcelain from this dynasty can fetch.
The auctioned vase was left to the great-grandparents of the present owners by an uncle.
It was part of the listed contents of his apartment, which also included two dragon robes, other Chinese porcelains, a yellow silk textile and a bronze mirror, after he died in 1947.
The exact history of the vase before this has not been traced.
According to a Sotheby’s spokeswoman, the family were unaware of its true value nor that it bore the mark of a Qianlong emperor.
“We didn’t like the vase too much, and my grandparents didn’t like it either,” said the owner of the vase.
The astonishing price was paid by an Asian buyer, after a long auction which lasted around 20 minutes and involved multiple bidders.
Sotheby’s website says that “porcelains with such elaborate and challenging designs are exceedingly rare”, and that the only other vase of a similar design is currently held in the Musee Guimet in Paris.