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Old table lamp turns out to be £550,000 Ming vase

The blue and white vase had a drill hole in the base that obscured the tell-tale six character mark of the Emperor Xuande. The astonishing price paid was despite the hole and a wooden base and metal top that had been attached, and the fact its two halves had been roughly stuck togther.

The blue and white porcelain measured 15.6 inches (39.75cm) including the wooden base added later. The distinctive blue decoration exhibited a technique termed "heaped and piled", which gives the painted outlines a slightly blurred appearance. This type of decoration is found on Ming ceramics and later Chinese porcelain imitating masterpieces from the period.

The vase was decorated with leafy tendrils, flowers and crashing waves in a style associated with highly prized early Ming porcelain. The unusual form of the vase was derived from an Islamic prototype in metal and it relates to a rarefied group of Yongle and early Ming porcelains represented in major museums around the world. At the sale, bidding began at just £5,000 but there was soon a hushed saleroom when the price shot up into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Guy Schwinge from Duke's said: "It is tempting to speculate how many millions the vase would have fetched if it had not been damaged when it was converted to a table lamp. It had been converted long before the vendor was given it and when removing the base, specialist conservators discovered the six character mark of the early Ming Emperor Xuande. They also discovered the mark had been partly obliterated when the vase was drilled to convert it to a lamp. Chinese porcelain from the reign of Xuande bearing the imperial marks of the Emperor are extremely rare and highly prized by a new breed of collectors from mainland China. Duke's have a track record for finding Chinese works of art - a house in Swanage yielded a vase used as an umbrella stand with a large crack, which sold for 750,000 pounds. And a display cabinet in another Dorset property was found to contain jade and other treasures from the Summer Palace, which were sold by Duke's for 1.5 million pounds."