Rare 16th century dish found in drawer sells for more than £1m at auction

The dish was made around 1520-1523 and was part of a sale of the contents of Lowood House, near Melrose in the Borders.

Rare 16th century dish found in drawer sells for more than £1m at auction

A 16th century dish found in a drawer at a country house in the Scottish Borders has sold for more than £1 million at an auction.

The istoriato-style dish, which measures about 27cm (11in) in diameter, was expected to fetch between £80,000 and £120,000 during a live online sale by Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh.

Instead, the Italian work of art, which depicts the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, sold for an eye-watering £1,263,000 – a new world record, the auction house believes.

The rare dish is attributed to Nicola di Gabriele Sbraghe, who has been described as the “Raphael of maiolica painting”.

It was made by him around 1520-1523 and was part of a sale of the contents of Lowood House, near Melrose in the Borders.

Ceramic specialists found the dish in a drawer when preparations were being made to auction off the 400-plus items in the collection.

Theodora Burrell, Antiques Specialist at Lyon & Turnbull
Theodora Burrell, antiques specialist at Lyon & Turnbull, with the 16th century Italian dish that sold for more than £1m (Gary Doak Photography)

“The whole story of its discovery tucked away in a drawer, through the meticulous research carried out by our specialists, and then fierce international bidding on auction day has been exciting from beginning to end.”

According to Mr Strang, it is “unprecedented” for maiolica – the type of pottery the dish is – from this period of Nicola’s life to come on the market.

Gavin Strang selling the rare Italian dish at a Lyon & Turnbull auction in Edinburgh (Lyon & Turnbull) 

The Crum Ewing’s fortunes were established by James Ewing, a Lord Provost and MP for Glasgow in the early 19th century.

A spokesperson at Lyon & Turnbull said Ewing mentioned buying the maiolica dish in a diary he kept during a 13-month trip around Europe in 1844.

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