Bowl from yard sale revealed to be rare artifact worth $500,000

yard sale

A small porcelain bowl sold at a yard sale for $35 has turned out to be a 15th-century, uncommon Chinese artifact worth up to $500,000.

An unnamed man from Connecticut purchased the bowl last year from a New Haven yard sale, and emailed images later to Sotheby’s requesting an evaluation. Appraisers ascertained it dates back to the early 1400s during the Ming dynasty, and calculated its value at between $300,000 and $500,000. The artifact, which Sotheby’s says is “rare and exceptional,” will be available later this month to the highest bidder in New York as part of the Important Chinese Art auction.

Angela McAteer, head of Sotheby’s Chinese Works of Art Department and its senior vice president said: “It’s always quite astounding to think that it kind of still happens, that these treasures can be discovered. It’s always really exciting for us as specialists when something we didn’t even know existed here appears seemingly out of nowhere.” Of the other six bowls of this sort known to subsist, almost all are in museums. The micro bowl is painted cobalt blue — roughly 6 inches in diameter — and molded like a chicken heart or lotus bud.

It’s embroidered with “blossoms of lotus, peony, chrysanthemum, and pomegranate flowers, with a medallion at the bottom, and bordered by a band of lotus scrolls around the rim,” according to a writeup on the auction website. The catalog note reads: “In every respect, this delicate bowl is a quintessential Yongle product, made for the court, showing the striking combination of superb material and painting with a slightly exotic design that characterizes imperial porcelain of this period.”


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Aaron Granger


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