I had the chance to see the vase for myself last week when it was displayed in a small, second floor showroom in Dover Street in Central London.The mundane surroundings hardly matched the captivating grandeur of the piece.The Mail has discovered that the explorer uncle spent the inter-war years of the 1920s and 1930s travelling the world and left it to the family with a remarkable collection of mementoes, maps, antique travel books and ornaments.
It took less than two minutes to rack up the final £20million, climaxing at an astonishing £53million.
But one item, sitting on a plastic shelf at Bainbridge’s when their consultant valuer came in, had been removed from the house sale.
Luan Grocholski, an expert in ceramics who worked for Sotheby’s, caught only a glimpse of the vase in the stockroom – but it was enough to set his pulse racing.‘I saw and just thought it couldn’t be true,’ he said.
‘I realised the quality was fantastic, and assumed it was a very high quality copy.’ He began to look in libraries and at other works from the same period, a research quest that eventually took him six weeks.
He and the auction house thus set their estimate of its value at £800,000 to £1.2million, hoping it might rise to a few million with luck.