A rare Ming-era Chinese wine cup, one of only 19 known to exist, could fetch US$38 million or more when it is auctioned in Hong Kong tomorrow.
The small white porcelain cup, decorated with a colour painting of a rooster and a hen tending to their chicks, was made during the reign of the Chenghua emperor between 1465 and 1487, Sotheby's auction house said.
The price, equal to about HK$300 million, would be a record, according to Nicolas Chow, deputy chairman for Sotheby's Asia.
If so, it will set a world record for the sale of any Chinese works of art or porcelain.
Currently, that record is held by a gourd-shaped vase from the Qianlong period, which sold for HK$253 million in 2010.
The chicken cup represents the pinnacle of Ming-era porcelain production, according to Sotheby's.
"That period, in terms of porcelain production, was really the peak of material refinement," Chow said, adding that emperors of later Chinese dynasties were so enamoured by the design that the chicken cup was copied extensively.
"When you buy a chicken cup ... you don't just buy the object, you're buying centuries of imperial admiration for these objects," he said.
Only 19 such cups were known to exist, with just four in private collections, Chow said.
More than 3,700 lots with an estimated worth of more than HK$2.5 billion would be sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong spring sales this year, the auction house said.