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The Boston Globe


Vase that drew $1.7m bid also drawing federal scrutiny

Antique and invaluable or newand suspect?

It was the kind of big ticket sale that puts a new art auction house on the map: A bidder on the phone in Italy offered $1.7 million for an 18th-century Chinese vase from Altair Auctions of Norwood, an eye-popping price more normally seen at elite houses like Sothe­by’s or Christie’s.

But when the Globe, acting on a tip, discovered that the vase bore a striking resemblance to a modern reproduction auctioned off a year ago for just $3,840, the deal began to unravel. The two vases are almost certainly one and the same, but sometime between the earlier auction and the Altair sale on March 30 someone had written a phony ownership history and placed a Christie’s sticker on its base, as if to hide its humble past from a rich new buyer.

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