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Ming Dynasty bowl fetches $720,000

Monitoring Desk

A 15th Century Chinese bowl has gone under the hammer and sold for over $700,000 at Sotheby’s. It had been found at a yard sale in the US and bought for a pittance by comparison.

A bowl bought for $35 (around €30) at a yard sale in New England in the US turned out to be rare Ming Dynasty Chinese porcelain and has now been auctioned off for nearly $722,000. The bowl, small, white and adorned with cobalt blue paintings of flowers, is only one seven known to exist in the world. 

“Today’s result for this exceptionally rare floral bowl, dating to the 15th Century, epitomizes the incredible, once in a lifetime discovery stories that we dream about as specialists in the Chinese Art field,” Angela McAteer,  thehead of Sotheby’s Chinese Works of Art Department, said in a statement.  

From bargain to big-ticket sale

While browsing a yard sale last year in New Haven, Connecticut, an antiques enthusiast noticed the Ming Dynasty-era piece and thought it could be something special, according to Sotheby’s. The buyer later emailed information and photos to the renowned international auction house headquartered in New York, asking for an evaluation.

When they were able to look at the bowl in person, Sotheby’s confirmed it was from the 1400s. Specialists can only confirm such items’ authenticity when seeing it up close and touching the porcelain themselves. With a smooth feel, silky glaze, and colors and designs distinctive of the period the bowl later proceeded to auction.

Wednesday’s sale courted 15 bids, starting at $200,000 and ending at $580,000. The official purchase price, after various fees, was $721,800. Sotheby’s had the piece valued between $300,000 and $500,000. 

A rare white 'Floral' Bowl from the Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period is seen on display at Sotheby's on March 11, 2021 in New York City.

Rich history

The porcelain bowl was made for the Yongle court in the early 1400s during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty. 

The court was known to have ushered in a new style to the porcelain kilns in the city of Jingdezhen. According to Sotheby’s the bowl is a quintessential Yongle product. 

Only six other such bowls are known to exist according to McAteer, and most of them are in museums. No others are in the United States.

The bowl was made in the shape of a lotus bud or chicken heart and decorated with a medallion at the bottom and a quatrefoil motif surrounded by flowers on the inside. Four blossoms of lotus, peony, chrysanthemum and pomegranate flower cover the outside. Both the top and bottom on the outside of the bowl have detailed patterns.  

How the bowl ended up at a Connecticut yard sale remains a mystery.

Courtesy: DW