What is your best yard sale find? For an unnamed Connecticut man, an ordinary New Haven yard sale in 2019 produced the bargain of a lifetime. The man purchased a small
To an untrained eye, the porcelain bowl may appear like a relatively modern product. However, by examining the quality of the porcelain, glaze, and floral motifs, experts were able to pinpoint its creation to the rule of the Yongle Emperor. This period from 1403 to 1424 is considered one of the finest periods of Chinese Imperial porcelain production. This small bowl (about six inches in diameter) was likely made for use in the courts of this Ming dynasty ruler. The brilliant blue designs were created during a period of experimentation in cobalt techniques with rigid quality control. Hence, the small “lotus bowl” (named for its shape) is an almost-unparalleled example of craftsmanship.
The floral designs on the bowl bear resemblance to motifs depicted in the Islamic Middle East. In cobalt, lotus, peony, chrysanthemum, and pomegranate blossoms surround the vessel. The porcelain of the Yongle period was traded throughout the world, reaching lands in the Middle East and East Africa. However, according to
Known for its beauty and durability, porcelain vessels are still prized today. It is unknown how the Ming dynasty lotus bowl came to be at a Connecticut yard sale. Provenance—knowing where an object came from and how it passed from hand to hand—is valued in the art world for both scholarly and ethical reasons. However, this bowl has presented a mystery. Only six companion bowls have been identified, mostly held in prestigious museum collections. Should you hope to stumble upon historic finds at your local yard sale, Sotheby’s head of the Chinese art department, Angela McAteer,
This particular bowl will be included in an upcoming auction by
An unnamed man purchased a porcelain bowl for $35 at a yard sale in Connecticut.
It turned out to be a Ming dynasty bowl from the 15th-century Yongle period. It will be auctioned at Sotheby’s and is expected to go for between $300,000 and $500,000.
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