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Eldred’s have held August Asian sales for the last quarter of a century and this year hosted three auctions: a 1004-lot Asian sale of Chinese and Korean art that totalled a premium-inclusive $229,575 (£153,050) on August 23 and 24, a 1508-lot Japanese sale that fetched $470,867 (£313,910) from August 20-22, and a 155-lot Paul Jacoulet print sale that totalled $176,042 (£117,360) on August 21.

Whether it was the content of these Oriental outings or a general market malaise, bidding was patchy and take-up by lot was considerably down on last year – around 25 per cent less for the Asian and Japanese auctions and about 15 per cent less for the Paul Jacoulet material, according to Jo Leal Clark.

Although there were few exceptional entries, and a trade-consigned Japanese cloisonné enamel koro by Namisaka Yamasuki took the top slot, selling to a US dealer for $12,000 (£8000), some of the steadiest competition was for the Paul Jacoulet prints.

Paul Jacoulet (1902-60) was an extraordinary man for his time: born in France but schooled in Tokyo where his father worked as a French professor in Tokyo University, he spoke Japanese like a native and was tutored in Japanese brushwork and Western-style painting. Generally acknowledged to be the first foreigner to master Japanese ukiyo-e art, he was also the first print artist to depict scenes of the 'floating world' of the South Seas.

It was a South Sea print that brought the biggest price: The Mysterious Pacific, illustrated right. It depicts a baleful, beautiful mermaid seated on a rock in the middle of the ocean. Signed and in pristine condition, it mesmerised one US collector who secured it for $7100 (£4735), while an unusual one-off Kutani tile mural, right, based on Paul Jacoulet’s print Song of Waves fetched $5600 (£3735) from a Southeast Asian print collector.

It had been commissioned by the vendor’s uncle when he was posted in Japan with the Occupation forces and was originally intended as a highly decorative centrepiece for his swimming pool.