October 5, 2022

Written by Amarachi Orie, CNN

A vase kept in a kitchen in England could sell for £150,000 ($186,000) after it was revealed to be a rare 18th century Chinese artifact which was created for the Qianlong Emperor.

The vase was purchased by a surgeon in the 1980s for a few hundred pounds, according to UK-based auction house Dreweatts, which is handling the sale later this month. The surgeon later passed it onto his son who, not realizing its value, kept it in the kitchen.

Standing at two feet tall with a striking palette of gold and silver against a vivid blue background, the vase carries the distinctive six-character mark of the Qianlong period (1736-1795) on its base, Dreweatts, in Berkshire, southern England, said in a press release.

The vase carries the distinctive six-character mark of the Qianlong period (1736-1795) on its base.

The vase carries the distinctive six-character mark of the Qianlong period (1736-1795) on its base. Credit: Courtesy of Dreweatts

It is estimated to sell for £100,000 to £150,000 ($124,000 to $186,000) in Dreweatts’ auction on May 18.

“Discoveries of this type are very rare in the lifetime of a valuer,” Mark Newstead, specialist consultant for Asian ceramics and works of art at Dreweatts, told CNN Thursday.

Newstead said he first saw the vase when he, his wife and another couple were invited to lunch at a friend’s house in the late 1990s. The vase was in an alcove set back from the kitchen table.

“It had a great luminosity and fine decoration, and although at the time my main area of expertise was European ceramics, I had an overwhelming sense it was 18th century and something very good,” added Newstead.

It is rare to see blue vases painted in both gilding and slightly raised silver, the auction house said.

It is rare to see blue vases painted in both gilding and slightly raised silver, the auction house said. Credit: Courtesy of Dreweatts

It was not until he visited the house again a few years later that Newstead saw the vase had been moved to a much safer place on a large mahogany sideboard in the drawing room. He then looked at it more closely and thought it was Qianlong. However, the vase stayed where it was for another 20 years.

Dreweatts described the vase as an “extraordinary example of imperial Qianlong porcelain,” which used highly unusual enamelling techniques and striking colors.

The auction house said it is extremely rare to see blue vases painted in both gilding and slightly raised silver — which is thought to be due to the medium being difficult to control.

Estimated to sell for £100,000 to £150,000 ($124,000 to $186,000), the vase will be on auction at Dreweatts on May 18.

Estimated to sell for £100,000 to £150,000 ($124,000 to $186,000), the vase will be on auction at Dreweatts on May 18. Credit: Courtesy of Dreweatts

“The exceptional quality, monumental size, and imposing presence of this vase, as well as its fine and auspicious decoration, would have rendered it suitable for prominent display in one of the halls of the Qing palace,” added Dreweatts.

This is not the first time a valuable item has been found lying around the house.

A 13th-century Cimabue painting, which sold for $26.8 million in 2019, was discovered hanging in a French kitchen.
And a 400-year-old painting found in 2014 by accident in an attic when homeowners wanted to fix a leaky roof was valued at up to $136 million.