The Yongzheng mark and period bottle vase that sold for £2.6m at Tennants.

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Tennants posted a new house record when this Chinese blue and white porcelain bottle vase shot to £2.6m (plus 18.5% buyer's premium). It was discovered recently by Rodney Tennant on a routine house visit - the vendor said it had escaped damage when it had been knocked over by the cat.

The magnitude of the price was a surprise.

While the 15½ (39cm) vase, superbly decorated in the 'heaping and piling' technique characteristic of earlier Ming period pieces, carries a Yongzheng (1722-1736) mark to the base, the auctioneers had concluded it was probably a copy from the reign of Daoguang (1820-50). Their estimate for the sale on November 16 was £20,000-30,000.

But the belief that it was an early 18th century piece prompted a 10-minute bidding battle between the room and eight phone lines and, eventually, two head-to-head phone bidders. 

The hammer price of £2.6m matches that of a 14th century Yuan dynasty porcelain double-gourd vase sold by Woolley & Wallis in July 2005 (the first £1m-plus price in the UK regions) and represents the 12th time the seven-figure barrier - a once unimaginable milestone for salerooms outside London - has now been passed by Britain's provincial salerooms.

Not forgetting the £43m bid at Bainbridges of Ruislip in November 2010 for a Qianlong vase (a transaction that ATG understands is yet to be honoured), the current undisputed provincial record stands at £3.4m for a Qianlong spinach-green jade buffalo on its original gilt-bronze stand sold by the Salisbury rooms in 2009.

Tennants' previous house record was £400,000 bid for Sean Keating's Ulysses off Connemara in March 2007.