PARIS (Reuters) - An 18th century Chinese vase found in a shoebox in an attic in France sold for 16.2 million euros ($19 million) at auction in Paris on Tuesday.
The price was more than 20 times the estimate of 500,000 euros to 700,000 euros auctioneers Sotheby's had put on the item. It was the highest price reached for a single item sold by Sotheby's in France.
The vase spent some of its life stashed in an attic with other items that formed part of an inheritance. A French family retrieved the vase and brought it to the auctioneer.
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"This person (the seller) took the train, then the metro and walked on foot through the doors of Sotheby's and into my office with the vase in a shoebox protected by newspaper," Sotheby's Asian arts expert Olivier Valmier told Reuters.
"When she put the box on my desk and we opened it we were all stunned by the beauty of the piece."
The 30 cm, bulb-shaped vase, painted in delicate shades of green, blue, yellow and purple, was described as an exceptionally well-preserved porcelain vessel made for an emperor of the Qing dynasty.
It depicts deer, birds and other animals in a wood, and includes gold embroidery around the neck. The vase bears a mark of the Qianlong Emperor who ruled China from 1736 to 1796.A Sotheby's spokeswoman said: "They knew it had some value but nothing like that, nor that it was from the Qian dynasty."
The auction lasted some 20 minutes, a long time by usual standards for such sales, with multiple bidders battling for the prize.
The buyer was Asian but the firm did not wish to reveal the name or nationality.
The 16.2 million euros ($19.11 million) sale price included 2 million euros in auction costs and commissions.
(Reporting by Manuel Auslass, Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Luke Baker and Alison Williams)