The owner of this jug hoped to make £200 at auction. It is actually worth £5m
In fact it turned out to be one of the biggest bargains in auction history. The delicate ewer, it transpired, was not a French jug as billed in the auctioneer’s catalogue, but one of the rarest treasures of medieval Egypt with a market value of £5m. Only five other such pitchers exist and one specialist dealer has described the Somerset find as the “Holy Grail” of Islamic art.
The extraordinary story, reported in The Art Newspaper today, began when the 11th-century ewer was put up for sale by Lawrences auctioneers of Crewkerne, who described it as a 19th-century claret jug adorned by mythological animals, birds, and vegetal motifs, and set with European silver gilt and enamel mounts, possibly of Austro-Hungarian origin.
The valuers failed to realise that it was among a handful of Fatimid rock crystal ewers, which are considered among the rarest and most valuable objects in the Islamic art world. The last one to surface on the market was bought by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1862.
Also at the Art Newspaper