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Rare vase once sold for $80 auctioned for more than $30 million

Rare vase once sold for $80 auctioned for more than $30 million
A long-forgotten Chinese vase, once sold at auction for just AUD$80 went under the hammer for more than $30 million on Saturday after being discovered in an elderly woman's country home.
Described by Sotheby's as a "lost masterpiece," the rare 18th-century artefact spent the last 50 years in a remote house in central Europe surrounded by the owner's pet cats and dogs, according to the auctioneer.
The highly unusual vase - in which a blue-and-white floral design is visible through the object's lattice-like body - was made specifically for the Qianlong Emperor, who ruled China for more than 60 years.
A long-forgotten Chinese vase, once sold at auction for just AUD$80 went under the hammer for more than $30 million on Saturday after being discovered in an elderly woman's country home. (Sotheby's)
"It is a miracle that this extraordinarily fragile vase survived half a century in a home surrounded by countless pets," chairman of Sotheby's Asia, Nicolas Chow, said in a press statement prior to the sale.
The "double-walled" item is just one of a handful of similar designs, which were only attempted under the guidance of imperial kiln supervisor Tang Ying in the years 1742 and 1743.
Described by Sotheby's as a "technical tour-de-force," the pear-shaped vase is an example of a style of porcelain known as "yangcai," or "foreign colours," that saw artisans incorporating Western-style colouration and enamels into their craft.

Her cats 'walked around freely'

Sotheby's credits the discovery to Amsterdam-based art consultant Johan Bosch van Rosenthal, who found the vase at a country home. (Sotheby's has not specified in which European country the house is located). The owner, who is in her 80s, is believed to have inherited the item.
In a video posted to the auction house's official YouTube channel, Mr van Rosenthal recalled uncovering the dust-covered object after being invited by the woman to assess her collection.
"We reached a room with a number of Chinese works of art inherited many years ago," he said.
"Her four cats walked around freely among these. She pointed out a partly gilded Chinese vase on a cupboard - a cherished object which she knew to be something special and valuable."
Described by Sotheby's as a "lost masterpiece," the rare 18th-century artefact spent the last 50 years in a remote house in central Europe surrounded by the owner's pet cats and dogs, according to the auctioneer. (Sotheby's)
The vase was inspected by Sotheby's experts who matched it to an item in the Chinese imperial household's archives. Previously kept in the Palace of Heavenly Purity, part of Beijing's Forbidden City, the item was once praised by the emperor for its design.
Sotheby's records also showed that the vase had passed through its London auction house in 1954, selling for just AUD$80 (worth about $2200 in today's money).
The auctioneer's research found that it was sold again later that year for $145.
The object is known as the Harry Garner Reticulated Vase, named for the collector who owned it prior to the 1954 auction.

Positive signs

The rare item is among several other rediscovered Chinese artefacts to attract huge sums at auction in the past decade. In 2010, another vase from the Qianlong Emperor's reign sold for $62million (then $97 million - believed at the time to be a world record for a Chinese artwork) after being found in a London home during a clear-out. In 2018, an 18th-century vase, found in a shoebox in a French family's attic, sold for $27 million.
There were several other big-ticket Chinese antiques up for sale over the weekend at Sotheby's. A Ming dynasty table and couch-bed went for $11 million and $8 million respectively, while a blue-and-white porcelain jar from the same era sold for just under $6 million.
The sales helped wrap up Sotheby's seven-day Hong Kong spring sales series, which had been delayed due to the coronavirus. Although the series generated around 15 per cent less than last year's spring sales, the auction house has announced combined takings of $591 million.
A nude painting by French-Chinese artist Sanyu, "Quatre Nus," was the week's biggest sale, going for $47 million.
David Hockney's "30 Sunflowers" meanwhile sold for $21 million, the second-highest sum ever paid for a Western artwork at auction in Asia.