The rare blue artifact was created for the court of the Qianlong Emperor—the sixth emperor of the Qing dynasty.
blue vase
Credit: Courtesy of Dreweatts

Next time you're putting flowers into a vase, you may want to consider checking where it's from. A rare 18-century Chinese vase that was kept in a kitchen in England recently sold for $1.8 million at auction—over $1 million more than it was expected to go for.

The sale of the blue artifact was handled by Dreweatts, an auction house based in England. According to their website, the vase was created for the court of the Qianlong Emperor—the sixth emperor of the Qing dynasty—as determined by its distinctive six-character mark of the Qianlong period (1736-1795) on its base. "We are delighted to be able to offer this important vase to the market which, since I first saw it in the 1990s, has passed through two generations of the same family," says Mark Newstead, specialist consultant at Dreweatts for Asian ceramics and works of art.

Newstead first saw the vase during a lunch at a friend's house, according to a report by CNN. The friend, a surgeon who purchased the rare artifact in the 1980s for a few hundred pounds, eventually passed it down to his son. The family, who didn't realize its true value, kept the vase in their kitchen, until it was ultimately moved to their drawing room (a safer spot for centuries old piece). It was only when a visiting antiques specialist saw it in the home that its true value and history was revealed.

A vase of this nature would need at least three firings in the kiln to create its three different glazes and enamels, according to Dreweatts. To achieve the cobalt blue color, makers likely fired the piece at a temperature of about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit; then passed it through again at a lower temperature for the turquoise green on the interior; and fired it once more for the gold-and-silver enamels in a special kiln. Dreweatts notes that the vase is a testament to the creativity of the craftsmen during this period, who explored and perfected enameling techniques to appeal to the emperor's taste.


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