By Laura Roberts
Published: 7:30AM GMT 04 Mar 2010
After an opening offer of £45 (€50) the blue-and-white piece, which is 12 inches high, sold for £99,808 (€110,000) to a London-based collector who beat another dealer who had flown in from Beijing.
The item was part of a collection of Chinese porcelain inherited by an unnamed Co Carlow family and put up for sale at Sheppards Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois.
Richard Peters, 48, who runs an antiques business in Kensington, said: “I got a bargain.”
He believes the vase, which is known in Chinese as hu-yu-chun-ping and decorated with banana and bamboo trees, was “made for the personal collection of the Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century”.
It had “probably been looted from the Imperial Palace in Peking by French or British or American soldiers sometime during the 19th century”, he added while admitting that the field of Chinese ceramics is “difficult because the market is filled with fakes and forgeries”.
The underbidder Rong Chen, 48, said she was “very sad and disappointed” to lose. Her husband, an accountant and antique collector, had spotted the vase on the Internet. “This is the one – we think it was in the Imperial household,” she said.
Michael Sheppard, the auctioneer, said the sale was "the highest figure ever achieved for any item” in the 60-year history of the family-run firm of auctioneers and valuers. He said “something like this happens once in a lifetime”.
Mr Peters bought a second lot – a pair of Chinese polychrome vases – for £37,210 (€41,000). Like the Imperial vase, the items had carried a guide price of €100-€150.
Mr Peters returned to London last night with the items, which he is likely to sell to a Chinese client.
As he left the auction David Stapleton, from the nearby town of Ballyragget, told the Irish Times: “It was one of those moments. You had to be there – like the GPO in 1916.”