The 18th century masterpiece was discovered in the spare bedroom of the couple’s small Dorset home by a gobsmacked antiques expert.
The couple had no idea how valuable the 18.5 inch “lantern” vase was, or that it may have once belonged to Florence Nightingale.
Despite a crack in the porcelain and splashes of emulsion paint, auctioneer Matthew Denney decided to study it further.
Research revealed it was an imperial vase and almost certainly made for the Emperor Qianlong in about 1740.
Although it is expected to reach half a million pounds it could have gone for double that if it had not been damaged.
The amazing find echoes a plot from TV series Lovejoy in which the star spots a similarly valuable Chinese vase being used as an umbrella stand.
Guy Schwinge, from Dukes auction house in Dorchester – which is selling the vase – said the couple were given it as a gift and that it “exemplifies the best porcelain of the period”.
The production of porcelain in China entered a golden period during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong that has never been surpassed.
It is not known when the vase came to Britain, but it has been connected with Embley Court in Hampshire, where Florence Nightingale’s family lived.
Stuart Marchant, of leading Chinese ceramics dealer Marchants, said: “This is an exceptional discovery of considerable importance.
“The landscape painting is very fine, but it is more usual to find it on Kangxi wares.”
The Chinese market is extremely strong at the moment so the vase looks set to cause a great deal of interest when it is auctioned on February 11.Post published in: Africa News