Vase kept in elderly couple's spare room is £750,000 antique
A cracked vase discovered in an elderly couple's spare bedroom fetched £750,000 (€860,000) at auction yesterday after experts found it was an 18th century Chinese masterpiece.
The owners, said to be of "modest" means, were unaware the object sitting in their home was made in 1740 for the Emperor Qianlong.
The base of the vase, used as an umbrella stand at some point in its career, bears the emperor's imperial mark.
The truth about the antique, once thought to have been owned by Florence Nightingale's family, was only discovered when the couple asked for a routine valuation at their home in Purbeck, Dorset, England.
The "lantern" vase sold at Duke's auctioneers in Dorchester to a telephone bidder who wished to remain anonymous.
Auctioneer Guy Schwinge said: "We are very pleased. It is amazing when these things turn up."
The piece achieved a high price despite a six-inch hairline crack, probably caused by an umbrella tip, and some paint splashing.
Even though it is not in pristine condition, the piece exemplifies the best porcelain of the period, experts agree.
The vase is believed to be the work of Tang Ying, rated as one of the era's greatest craftsmen.
Florence Nightingale's family lived in nearby Embley Park, Hampshire, and the vase was probably once in their possession, Duke's said.