An 18th Century Chinese vase, left for decades in a shoebox in France, has sold for 16.2m euros (£14.2m).
The vase was auctioned at Sotheby’s in Paris on Tuesday and sold for more than 20 times its estimated guide price, 500,000 to 700,000 euros.
It’s the highest price reached for a single item ever sold by Sotheby’s in France.
The vase formed part of a family inheritance and was recently discovered in an attic.
Sotheby’s Asian arts expert, Olivier Valmier, said 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.
“When she put the box on my desk and we opened it, we were all stunned by the beauty of the piece.
“This is a major work of art,” Valmier continued. “It is as if we had just discovered a Caravaggio.”
The 30 cm, bulb-shaped vase, painted in 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 its neck. The vase bears a mark of the Qianlong Emperor who ruled China from 1736 to 1795.
The vase, which was in perfect condition, “is the only known example in the world bearing such detail,” said Valmier.
“We didn’t like the vase too much, and my grandparents didn’t like it either,” said the owner of the piece, who only got in touch with Sotheby’s in March.
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, with multiple bidders battling for the vase.
Sotheby’s has not revealed the name or nationality of the Asian buyer.