A Bargain Hunter Picked Up This Small Ceramic Bowl for $35 at a Junk Sale. Now, It Could Sell for Up to $500,000 at Sotheby’s

As it turns out, it's an exceedingly rare example of Ming Dynasty porcelain.

A Sotheby's specialist holds the blue and white "floral" bowl dating to the Yongle Period. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

A keen-eyed flea market shopper in Connecticut who bought a delicate blue-and-white porcelain bowl for just $35 is now sitting on a fortune, as the small object goes up for sale at Sotheby’s New York next month, where it could fetch up to $500,000.

In a press release, the auction house said the shrewd consignor had an inkling he had something special, and brought it to a specialist at the auction house.

The Mind Dynasty-era bowl, it turns out, dates to the 15th-century Chinese Yongle period and is extremely rare, with only six companion pieces known in existence. And all of those are in the collections of world-famous institutions such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, the National Palace Museum in Taipei, and the National Museum of Iran.

Measuring just over 6 inches across, the bowl was created in a typical shape resembling a rounded lotus bud or chicken heart, tapering to a pointed base atop a short foot.

Blue and white "floral" bowl, Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Blue and white “floral” bowl, Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The work bears a classic “heaped and piled” method of painting, where the deep cobalt blue appears almost violet because it has been applied so heavily. It is decorated with a striking medallion, and accented by quatrefoil motifs and stylized floral patterns resembling blossoms of lotus, peony, chrysanthemum, and pomegranate flowers.

In an essay in the Sotheby’s sales catalogue, Regina Krahl, a specialist in Far Eastern ceramics, writes that it is “in every respect… a quintessential Yongle product, made for the court, showing the striking combination of superb material and painting with a slightly exotic design.”

The item will be auctioned off on March 17 in New York. Its low estimate is $300,000.


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