There are less than 10 pieces like it the whole world.
One of the things we have always loved is going to yard sales. You just never know what you’re going to find, from art prints to Tiffany style lamps to Jadeite glass. Most people who sell at yard sales, even if they are collectors, are willing to give some good deals in order to avoid the hassle of selling online or renting a booth at an antique mall. But, even at the high of yard sale pricing there are still some gems that can fall through the cracks.
In Connecticut a stunning blue and white porcelain bowl was bought at a yard sale for $35- steep by garage sale standards. Recently this bowl was auctioned off through Sotheby’s with an end price of $721,800 which was more than double the low end of the anticipated price range. So, what makes this particular bowl so special? Well, it was created in the 15th century and has managed to survive all these centuries unscathed.
The blue and white bowl has no real flaws to speak of and has a stunning amount of detail work using symbols and decorations still found on pottery today. You can’t get much more mint condition than that and in classic designs no less!
The bowl has a small foot on the bottom and is decorated with cobalt blue lotus, peony, chrysanthemum, and pomegranate flowers on the outside. Inside the bowl vines overlocking in a chain pattern combine with a central quatrefoil and more vines with trefoils adorn the upper part of the inner rim.
While flowers and plants are common to antique pottery coming from Asia, this bowl also features many designs that many people commonly think of as European: the trefoil and quatrefoil, as well as the almost Celtic interlocking vine motif. The latter type of design has also been found on Persian decorations of antiquity.
The bowl was created during the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty, a time known for high quality, delicate blue and white pottery. Today, people joke about breaking a vase only to find out it was Ming Dynasty and therefore hugely expensive, but rarely do we really think that we might find one just lying around a yard sale.
The find was originally made in Connecticut, but the origins of the bowl were for use by the royal household of Emperor Yongle (1360–1424) in China. During this time the decorative arts in China flourished under the emperor’s imperative to show the West just how good Chinese products could be. A royal ceramics studio was set up in the late 14th century and one order was recorded as being a staggering 300,000 pieces large – and that was just for use by the imperial household.
There are only 6 other examples of this specific type of Ming pottery left in the world and it remains unknown how one ended up in a yard sale in the U.S.
The sale took place online through Sotheby’s as part of the Important Chinese Art auction which ended on March 17th, 2021. Let this be a lesson to you: if something calls to you at a flea market or garage sale it might just be best to follow your intuition despite your surroundings.