Retired factory worker learns his ‘blue and white vase’ is a million dollar Ming

> The vase, which measures 11 1/2 inches (29cm) tall, is the largest recorded from a rarefied group of early Ming moonflasks dating from the Yongle period (1403-1424). It could fetch over a million pounds when it goes under the hammer in England.


The vase, which measures 11.5" (29cm) tall, is the largest recorded from a rarefied group of early Ming moonflasks dating from the Yongle period (1403-1424), could fetch over a million pounds when it goes under the hammer at Dukes in Dorset.

A 79-year-old British retired Cadbury chocolate factory worker has just learned his ‘pretty blue and white vase’ that’s sat for years in his modest home is actualy a near-perfect Ming vase, which could bring more than $1 million at auction in May 2011. The owner had the vase tucked inside a cardboard box when he brought it to Duke’s of Dorchester for an appraisal.

According to Dukes Auction, the vase epitomises the taste of the Yongle Emperor and demonstrates the exceptional level of refinement achieved during his reign. The blue and white decoration exhibits the characteristic “heaping and piling” and the quality and delicacy of the porcelain was not equalled in Europe until the 18th century.

rare ming vase discovered by factory worker
A 79-year-old British retired Cadbury chocolate factory worker has just learned his ‘pretty blue and white vase’ that’s sat for years in his modest home is actualy a near-perfect Ming vase, which could bring more than $1 million at auction in May 2011. The owner had the vase tucked inside a cardboard box when he brought it to Duke’s Auctioneers for an appraisal.
Photo courtesy Duke’s Auctioneers

The vase, or flask, has a flattened globular body with a bold-shaped mouth and simple loop handles, which derive from a near Eastern form. The body is decorated in underglaze blue with Islamic inspired decoration of latticing and shaped panels centred by a six-pointed star containing leafy arabesques and scrolls. Around the neck is a band of clouds and the circular foot has lappets and dots.

It seems likely that this elegant form of moonflask was ultimately an invention of the Chinese potters, but it was undoubtedly greatly influenced by Islamic glass and metalwork. Other examples known, which also show Islamic influence, may be seen in the collection of the British Museum, London (Percival David Foundation) and the Palace Museum in Beijing, China. The innovative combination of an exotic foreign shape derived from the Middle East with characteristic Chinese decorative elements clearly indicates that two-way influences of the Chinese ceramic trade during the early 15th century.

Owner Over The ‘Moon’

The vase arrived at Duke’s of Dorchester in a cardboard box. The owner had read of Duke’s success in selling Chinese works of art in the national press and decided to see what they thought of his vase. The retired gentleman, who does not wish to be identified, lives modestly and has been interested in antiques for many years. He worked for Cadbury’s for 19 years, but, aged 79, he is now retired.

“When my colleague initially showed me what had arrived in a cardboard box I could not believe my eyes,” Guy Schwinge of Duke’s said. “The vase is in perfect condition and it is amazing to think that it has survived unscathed for almost six hundred years!”

Duke’s consultant for Chinese works of art is Anthony du Boulay, a noted scholar and author. He described the vase as “a spectacular find.” “What makes this vase interesting is its’ size compared with the other known Yongle vases of this type,” he said. “It is a rare survival, which will undoubtedly appeal to mainland Chinese collectors and institutions.”

Specialists believe the vase may well appeal to Middle Eastern buyers, because of the Islamic inspired decoration. One commentator speculated: “This is an exceptional vase of immense importance, which demonstrates the impact of Islamic art on Chinese imperial ceramics. It may well end up in one of the new Gulf-State museums. There is no doubt this is a world class object”.

Duke’s of Dorchester are selling the vase in a spectacular auction at the Dorchester Fine Art Salerooms on May 12 and market insiders expect the vase to sell for in excess of £1 million.

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