The story appears on

Page A8

March 5, 2021

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Nation

US$35 ceramic bowl may be worth US$500,000

Talk about a great bargain! A small bowl bought for US$35 in a yard sale in the US turned out to be a rare Chinese ceramic from the Ming Dynasty (1384-1644) worth up to half a million dollars.

The blue and white porcelain piece has steep rounded sides that narrow at the bottom, making it look like a lotus bud (lianzi, “莲子”) or chicken heart (jixin, “鸡心”) — quintessential designs from the Ming era. It features floral motifs in rich cobalt blue of lotuses, peonies, chrysanthemums and pomegranate blossoms.

Experts at Sotheby’s called the bowl “rare and exceptional” and said it bears all the hallmarks of imperial porcelain items made during the reign of Zhu Di, or the Yongle Emperor (1403-1424), the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty.

“The style of painting, the shape of the bowl, even just the color of the blue is quite characteristic of that early, early 15th century period of porcelain,” said Angela McAteer, Sotheby’s senior vice president and head of its Chinese Works of Art Department.

The smooth body and silky glaze were also dead giveaways.

“In every respect, this delicate bowl is a quintessential Yongle product, made for the court, showing the striking combination of superb material and painting,” said a writeup on the auction house’s website. The bowl was bought by an unidentified man at a yard sale last year in New Haven in the northeastern state of Connecticut, who later sought appraisal from specialists.

He sent a picture to Sotheby’s and McAteer and Chinese ceramic expert Hang Yin had a good feeling about it.

“It was immediately apparent to both of us that we were looking at something really very, very special,” said McAteer. An in-person examination confirmed their feeling.

The exquisite workmanship of the bowl was the result of imperial patronage during the reign of the Yongle Emperor whose emphasis on the artistic dimension of porcelain items “lifted them to completely new levels,” according to Sotheby’s catalog notes, and made them much more than utilitarian wares.

The item is in “very good condition,” except for a tiny shallow chip and minor warping on the rim. Auctioneers value it between US$300,000 and US$500,000.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend