By Jess Casey and Des O’Sullivan
A Ming masterpiece, discovered when a Cork family brought it for a routine valuation, has sold under the hammer at €610,000, €490,000 more than it was expected to fetch.
The rare Chinese moon flask, estimated at €80,000 to €120,000, was found at an antiques valuation at Blarney Castle in September.
Its sale at Sheppards in Durrow yesterday was greeted by a round of applause, according to Auction house Antiques and Art Ireland.
Sheppard’s Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois, imposed a special condition of no internet bidding on the piece.
Registered bidders were required to pay a deposit and attend the saleroom in person.
The value of the heirloom was revealed in September, when a Cork family visited the evaluation event with the piece, which they thought might be worth a few thousand euro.
“From the minute it came out of the box, we knew it was an important piece,” said auctioneer Philip Sheppard.
“Everything about it was consistent with being an authentic Ming blue and white flask, dating from the Yongle period.”
The Yongle Emperor, the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1402 to 1424.
Mr Sheppard would not name the owners of the piece, other than to say they are “an old Cork family, with connections going back to a colonial past — India during the Raj”.
The family inherited it more than 50 years ago from a cousin and they brought it to the valuation in Blarney out of curiosity.
Mr Sheppard believed the piece to be a Ming flask, based on its colour, its weight, touch, and bubble distribution beneath the glaze, which was consistent with a piece from the 15th century.
Its discovery prompted international interest.
“We will literally have guys flying in from Shanghai and Hong Kong for this,” said Mr Sheppard.