A Rare 16th-Century Italian Plate Discovered in a Drawer Sells For a World Record $1.7 Million at Auction

A unique 16th-century Italian dish that was discovered hidden away in a drawer sold at auction for a world record of $1,721,000 (£1,236,000), setting a new record for the highest price ever paid at auction.

According to initial estimates, the maiolica (tin-glazed pottery) plate would sell for between $109,000 and $163,000 (£80,000 and £120,000), and the bidding began at a price that was just below the lower end of the projection.

With the auction streamed live online, bids came in via phone and email from all over the world. An unknown bidder placed the winning bid, which was accepted.

“As the auctioneer, it was a real joy to bring the hammer down at over £1million on this incredibly rare dish – a new world record price, I believe,” Gavin Strang, managing director and head of private collections of Lyon & Turnbull, said in a statement.

“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!”

The plate, which depicts the Biblical account of Samson and Delilah, is said to have been created between 1520 and 1523 by Nicola da Urbino. According to popular belief, his real name was Nicola di Gabriele Sbraghe. In the early 16th century, he was widely recognized as the foremost master of the istoriato type of maiolica embellishment (a painted subject that fills the entire surface), earning him the title “Raphael of maiolica painting.”

Among 400 objects auctioned from Lowood House in the Scottish Borders, CNN reports that the plate was identified as a “rare piece of exceptional quality” by the auction house’s European ceramics specialist. Furniture, books, silver, and other objects of art were also available for bidding at the auction.