Spring, that glorious season that brings al fresco food, flowers and flea markets, is just over two weeks away. Treasure hunters are champing at the bit to get out among the stalls and booths (following health protocols, of course), looking for their own unique adrenaline rush.
While it may be unusual, this is the type of reward a knowledgable collector can find in the least likely of places.
This small bowl bought for US$35 at a flea market in Connecticut is not just an ordinary blue-and-white knockoff meant to hold jewelry, extra change or granny’s dentures. Rather, this is a 15th-century Chinese artefact. It features blossoms of lotus, peony, chrysanthemum and pomegranate, and was originally commissioned by China’s imperial court during the Ming dynasty. The seller has not been publicly identified.
The rare porcelain bowl — one of only seven in existence — slipped the notice of a number of people when it was up for sale last year, but one (unidentified) antiques enthusiast near New Haven snapped it up, without haggling over the price, and sent photos to an expert to be evaluated.
And, boy, was there good news for the man. His find could fetch in the range of US$300,000 to US$500,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York next month. That’s a mere 14,300 times the US$35 price tag.
The bowl came from the court of the Yongle Emperor, who ruled from 1403 to 1424 — a period of celebrated porcelain production.
“(The bowl had an) incredibly smooth porcelain body” and a “really unctuous silky glaze,” Sotheby’s head of Chinese art Angela McAteer told CNN, and noted it “was never replicated in future reigns or dynasties.”
Most of the six-inch bowl’s siblings are in museums.