Auction house Sotheby's said the vase sold on Tuesday was an 18th century treasure bearing "elaborate" detail and a mark of the Qianlong Emperor who ruled China from 1736 to 1796.
The purchaser, wearing a simple jogging top, beat off bids, mostly sent by phone callers, during 20 minutes of auctioneering.
The vase, displaying images of deer, crane birds, and mist-topped mountains, with gold embroidery around its neck, arrived at the auction house in March from a family home near Paris.
Arrival by train
"This person [the seller] took the train, then the metro and walked on foot through the doors of Sotheby's and into my office with the vase in a shoe box protected by newspaper," said Asian arts expert Olivier Valmier.
In the attic, it had been among dozens of other pieces of Chinoiserie, Valmier said, adding that it was in perfect condition and was the "only known example in the world bearing such detail."
"When she put the box on my desk and we opened it we were all stunned by the beauty of the piece," said Valmier.
The sale price included two million euros in auction costs and commissions.
Another rare item, a bowl made for the Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong sold last April in Hong Kong for $30.4 million (€25.8 million).
ipj/msh (Reuters, AFP)