Page last updated at 18:12 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Florence Nightingale vase sells for 625,000 in Dorset

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There is a family link between the couple and the Nightingale family

A cracked Chinese vase, thought to have been owned by Florence Nightingale's family and later used as an umbrella stand, has sold for £625,000.

The rare 18th Century vase was found in the spare room of an elderly couple's house in Purbeck, Dorset, during a visit by an auction house valuer.

Valuers expected the vase to fetch up to £500,000, despite being damaged when it was used as an umbrella stand.

It was sold at auction to an anonymous phone bidder, at Duke's in Dorchester.

The vase was spotted by valuer Matthew Denney when he visited the couple's home.

The auction house said the vase had a 15cm (6 inches) hairline 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.

'Best of period'

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 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.

Guy Schwinge, of the auction house, said that unusually, the upper body has an impressed mark in Chinese script, which has been translated as "precious thing".

He said: "We are very pleased. It is amazing when these things turn up."

The successful bidder will pay a total of £750,000 for the vase, when a buyer's premium and VAT are added on to the hammer price.

Comparable vases are housed in museums around the world, including the British Museum in London and the Palace Museum in Beijing.



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