The tianqiuping (heavenly globe vase) with dragon in clouds decoration was offered by the Osenat house in Fontainebleau near Paris as part of a consignment of furniture and various art objects from a home in Brittany. The firm had taken expert advice and had been told the 22in (54cm) vase was a 20th century copy. It was undated in the catalogue and estimated at €1500-2000.
Instead, many people decided it could be a mark and period piece – one of a handful of known tianqiuping of this size and decoration made in the mid 18th century in the Ming style. With the influx of interest, online bidding was stopped and around 30 room and phone bidders were asked for a deposit of €15,000 each.
The winning bidder will pay €9.1m (£7.9m) once the buyer’s premium has been added.
Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said: “The market made the price, believing that it was Qianlong (1735-96) period. The buyer is a Chinese private individual and we are guaranteed payment. There is strong reason to think that the piece will go to a Chinese museum.”
He added that the recipient of the windfall is a lady living in one of the French overseas territories who inherited a house contents from her mother. “ This lady could have sold this vase to a dealer for €1000. Instead it's like she won the EuroMillions!”
Two centuries of colonial history, included the looting of the Summer Palace by Anglo-French expeditionary forces in 1860, dictates that great Chinese objects are occasionally found in France. However there are always sceptical voices when another ‘masterpiece’ is discovered.