After 25 minutes of bidding, the Yangcai vase brought into Sotheby’s in a shoe box was sold for €16.18m or 30-times the low estimate of €500k. The buyer was a young Chinese collector who attended the sale, according to the South China Morning Post. Sotheby’s pre-qualified bidders for this single-lot sale.
Here’s Sotheby’s description of how the object came to be in France:
The wonderful vase offered in this sale was discovered accidentally in the attic of a house in the French countryside where it had been long forgotten. It had been left to the great-grandparents of the present owners by an uncle and appears among the listed contents of his Paris apartment after he passed away in 1947. It is listed along with several other Chinese and Japanese objects including other Chinese porcelains, two dragon robes, a yellow silk textile, and an unusual bronze mirror contained in a carved lacquer box offered in our Arts d’Asie sale PF1807, lot 138.
While the exact provenance of the vase and the other Chinese and Japanese pieces before 1947 cannot be traced, the receipt of a Satsuma censer acquired as a wedding gift in the 1867 Universal Exhibition in Paris by an ancestor of the family suggests an active interest in Asian art at a very early date. Similarly, this vase may well have been acquired in Paris in the late 19th century when the arrival of Asian works of art initiated a fashion for Japanese and Chinese art. Interestingly, the only other vase of this shape and similar design, now in the collection of the Musée Guimet, Paris, was acquired by Ernest Grandidier about the same time, around 1890 from Philippe Sichel, an Asian art dealer in Paris active in the late 19th century, and an early advocate of Japanese art in France.