It was an Antiques Roadshow kinda moment when a Cork family showed up at an evaluation event in Blarney Castle last weekend with a vase they thought might be worth a couple of thousand.
“From the minute it came out of the box, we knew it was an important piece,” said Philip Sheppard of Sheppard’s Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois.
“Everything about it was consistent with being an authentic Ming blue and white flask, dating from the Yongle period.” (1402-1424, when the Yongle Emperor, the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned).
Mr Sheppard was not at liberty to say who the lucky owners are, other than to say they are “an old Cork family, with connections going back to a colonial past — India during the Raj”.
They inherited it more than 50 years ago from a cousin and brought it to the evaluation out of curiosity.
Mr Sheppard said the piece displays “Islamic influences” and a design that evolved from the water carriers of the Middle Ages.
“This is an extremely rare piece,” he said. “We were very excited to see it and very pleased the family has consigned it to us.”
Mr Sheppard said they believed it be a Ming flask based on its colour, weight, touch, and bubble distribution beneath the glaze, consistent with a 15th-century piece.
Mr Sheppard said he expects it to fetch between €40,000-€60,000 when it goes under the hammer at a specialist Masterworks sale at their Durrow auction house on November 7.
The auction house sold its most valuable item ever in 2017, a Qing Period Blue and White Double Gourd Vase originally valued at €800-€1,200, sold at auction for €740,000.
“It’s notoriously difficult to value these objects, that’s the nature of the market,” Mr Sheppard said.
“You could value it at €1m and sell it for €10m.”
Mr Sheppard said there’s already international interest in the Ming flask.
“We will literally have guys flying in from Shanghai and Hong Kong forthis,” he said.