Dish Found in Drawer of Country House Sells for $1.7M

'Incredibly rare' 16th-century dish fetched more than 10 times estimate
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2021 10:50 AM CDT
'Incredibly Rare Dish' Sells for 10 Times Estimate
The dish is believed to be from between 1510 and 1520.   (Lyon and Turnbull)

One of a Scottish merchant's souvenirs from a 19th-century "Grand Tour" of Europe sold for $1.7 million—more than 10 times the original estimate—after intense bidding at an auction Wednesday. The small early-16th-century Italian dish was part of an auction of hundreds of items from Lowood House, a country house in southern Scotland. A spokeswoman for Lyon & Turnbull auction house tells CNN that a ceramics specialist found the dish tucked away in a drawer and recognized it as a "rare piece of exceptional quality."

The tin-glazed maiolica dish is believed to be the work of Nicola da Urbino, described by the auction house as the "Raphael of maiolica painting." It depicts the Biblical story of Delilah cutting Samson's hair. Lyon & Turnbull managing director Gavin Strang tells the BBC that it was "unprecedented" for a maiolica dish from that era to come to market—and as the auctioneer, it "was a real joy to bring the hammer down" on the "incredibly rare dish—a new world record price I believe." He says the atmosphere during the auction was "electric."

Strang says bidding on the dish, which was initially expected to fetch between $109,000 and $163,000, started low but intensified as one buyer increased his bid by increments of £50,000, or around $68,000. "When something as unique as this appears on the market it really just depends on who has the most nerve or the deepest pockets." James Ewing—who owned a plantation in Jamaica and received significant compensation from the British government in 1837 after slavery was abolished—mentioned buying the dish in 1844 in his diary of his 13-month European tour, the Herald reports. He never lived at Lowood; one of his descendants married into the family that owned it. (Read more auction stories.)

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