The Nightingale family lived at Embley Park in Hampshire
A Chinese vase, thought to have been owned by Florence Nightingale's family, has been discovered inside the spare room of an elderly couple's home.
The "lost masterpiece" was found at the house in Purbeck, Dorset, during a visit by an auction house valuer.
It could fetch £250,000 at auction in February, despite being damaged after it was used as an umbrella stand.
Guy Schwinge of Duke's in Dorchester, said the quality of the painting on the vase was of the "highest order".
It was spotted by valuer Matthew Denney when he visited the couple's home.
The auction house said that the vase has a crack in its body, some abrasions on its inside, and that it had also been splashed with paint.
The couple are thought to have relegated it to a spare room because they did not know its value.
Although it has been in their family for more than half a century, experts believe it could have once belonged to the family of Florence Nightingale.
Experts have established a link with the couple's family and Nightingale's family, who lived at Embley Park in Hampshire.
Miss Nightingale, known as the Lady with the Lamp, gained worldwide renown for her work as a nurse during the Crimean War
The vase is believed to have been made for the Chinese emperor Qianlong, around 1740, and the base bears his imperial reign mark.
Mr Schwinge added that unusually the upper body has an impressed mark in Chinese script, which has been translated as "precious thing".
"This vase exemplifies the best porcelain of the period," he added.
"The quality of the landscape painting is outstanding."
Auctioneers said it was hard to estimate the value of the vase because of its damage, but some experts have said it could fetch up to £250,000.
Comparable vases are housed in museums around the world, including the British Museum in London and the Palace Museum in Beijing.