In 1769 an agent of the Dutch East Indies Company returns from Batavia where he had spent five years. He brings with him various goods that will interest the European market including an exceptional nacreous freshwater pearl weighing 2373 grains, 578 carats according to the measurement system in period, which is still today one of the three largest known specimens.
The pearl is a sensation in the auction sale of his deceased estate in Amsterdam in 1778, not only for its size but also for its blistered shape visualizing a sleeping lion above a flat striated base that evokes the finial of a carved jade seal of the Qianlong Emperor. A real size engraving has been edited for that auction.
It is bought at that sale for 2100 guilders before fees by a Dutch banker acting as art broker for Empress Catherine the Great to whom he delivers it in the following year. The pearl reappears circa 1863 when a woman, probably the daughter of a Danzig shipowner, tries to sell it to the King of Italy. It is bought by a Dutch associate of the jeweler of the king. The project of integrating it into a Fabergé surprise egg to be offered by the Tsar to the Tsarina is canceled by the fall of the Russian empire.
This 70 x 43 x 39 mm sleeping lion pearl weighing 118 grams is offered with its ancient gilt brass box fitting to its dimensions. It is estimated beyond € 340K for sale by Venduehuis in The Hague on May 31, lot 1778. Here are the links to the site of the auction house and to an article shared by Den Haag Centraal.
SOLD for € 320K before fees