A rare 18th century Chinese porcelain vase, discovered in the attic of a French family’s home, is expected to sell for about US$637,000 when it is auctioned at Sotheby’s in Paris on June 12.

This type of famille-rose – “rose family” – yangcai porcelain is rare in the market.

Most yangcai porcelain is now housed in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan, with one similar vase in the Guimet Museum of Paris.

Chinese art has been admired and collected across Europe for centuries, but the importance of certain pieces is occasionally lost over time
Henry Howard-Sneyd, chairman of Asian art, Sotheby’s

In April, a yangcai porcelain bowl was sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for HK$239 million.

Yangcai, which means “foreign colour” in Chinese, is characterised by its use of an opulent-looking enamel, a palette commonly in rose colours, and Western-style compositions.

Chinese vase left in attic shoebox priced at half a million euros for Sotheby’s auction

“Chinese art has been admired and collected across Europe for centuries, but the importance of certain pieces is occasionally lost over time,” says Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby’s chairman of Asian art.

Brought to Sotheby’s in a shoebox, the vase bears a mark from the Qianlong Emperor’s reign in the 18th century and would have been made for the emperor by the finest craftsmen in the Jingdezhen workshops.

Sotheby’s said such vases were usually made as one-of-a-kind items, sometimes in pairs, but never in large quantities.

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The outside of the vase is decorated with a picture showing nine fallow deer, which are symbols of happiness and prosperity, mushrooms and five cranes, representing longevity and immortality, set in a magnificent landscape filled with gnarled pines, a misty mountain peak and a tumbling waterfall.

Sotheby’s said this landscape might be an illustration of how the emperor’s imperial garden looked at the time.

As recorded in imperial inventories, pairs of vases with this design were produced twice: the first time in 1765 and then again in 1769, as a birthday gift.

While the exact origin of the vase is unknown, the Parisian family is known to have shown a keen interest in Asian art since 1867, when a Japanese satsuma censer – used for burning incense – was acquired as a wedding gift.

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Sotheby’s estimated that the Parisian family acquired the vase in the late 19th century when Chinese and Japanese arts became fashionable in the city.

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