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The 438-lot, all-day auction was the property of the well known Hong Kong dealer Gerald Godfrey and featured plenty of decorative material and pieces appealing to Western tastes as well as some more Chinese taste offerings.

This dispersal was taking place, said Bonhams’ specialist Colin Sheaf, because “Mr Godfrey and his wife were refining their lifestyle both as dealers and collectors”.

The auction drew a reasonable crowd to the Bond Street rooms, largely London trade (Nicholas Grindley, Katie Jones, Roger Keverne, Nicholas Pitcher and Gerald Hawthorn were among those who attended) but with some overseas and private collectors present and further overseas input, including Hong Kong trade, via commissions and the phone.

The sale ended up netting just under £333,000, with half the lots finding buyers (69 per cent in money). These days 50 per cent selling rates for Oriental sales are not unusual it is true but in this particular case the take-up would probably have been higher had it not been for the vendor’s decision to alter the estimates on many of the pieces, mostly in an upwards direction, and for these alterations to be announced at the sale. In some instances these changes, which Colin Sheaf read out from the rostrum as each lot came up, simply involved slight raising of the lower estimate. In others it was a more dramatic hike to double the original guidelines while on the odd occasion the estimates were lowered.

It would not be unreasonable to assume that raising the lower estimate also meant raising the reserve. Colin Sheaf would not comment on this but why else would one bother to change an estimate after it has been printed? Such alterations would be unlikely to influence the bidding for trade buyers - the likely audience for much of this material – who would have already evaluated the pieces and decided spending limits.

Setting aside the estimate factor, there was a generally selective mood for this event with some areas that were distinctly more popular than others and some individual items, often large decorative pieces, that were pursued to levels well beyond the estimates, whether original or revised.

The best-received section overall was the opening 20 lots of jades which saw all bar five lots change hands. The 27 lots of South-East Asian and Indian sculpture saw a similar take-up with 19 lots changing hands. The carpet section, by contrast, saw hardly anything sell.

Hongs to the fore

The highest individual prices of the day came from two China trade paintings (although paintings proved much less successful, overall). These were both 19th century Anglo-Chinese school waterfront depictions that fetched £13,000 and £12,000 against revised low estimates of £7000 and £9000. The more expensive of the two, which had an extensively crackled surface and went to a London dealer in the room, depicted the Hongs at Canton and could be dated with some accuracy through certain details. The elaborate fencing along the waterfront was removed in 1810 and a replacement installed and this view shows the transitional period with some old and some new fencing in place, while the fourth building on the right was remodelled in 1810 with a pediment and elaborate facade. The £12,000 painting, pictured here, was a 19th century view of the waterfront at Shanghai. Amongst the Chinese paintings there was something of a telephone battle for a long narrow, 6ft 5in x 2ft, (1.95m x 60cm), painting in colours on silk of an Oriental woman in a European style red robe and piled wig leaning on a fence watching two cats at play. Catalogued as probably 18th century, this ended making £3800 against its slightly higher revised estimate of £1500-1800.

The most expensive ceramics price was also £12,000, just under the revised estimate in this instance, paid for a pair of Qianlong export models of seated hounds, naturalistically coloured and 10in (25cm) high.

The more Chinese taste scholars’ objects was another section that saw a fitful take- up. Among the entries that did find buyers were a study collection of 20 rootwood and bamboo carvings of late Qing dynasty, with some damage, that fetched £2400, or a group of six wooden brushpots, one with a shell-inlaid six character mark of the Qianlong Emperor, some with damage and variously sized from 51/2in to 8in (14-20cm), that went in the room for £2600.

Among the large sculptural pieces in demand were three 2ft 4in (72cm) high gilt-wood figures of Buddha Sakyamuni each set on detachable plinths and described as Ming Dynasty or later, which went over the phone for £4800. The South-East Asian sculpture section featured a massive pair of Burmese wooden earth spirit figures, 7ft 2in (2.18m) high, described as 17th century or later that went to a private buyer in the room for £6500, around three times the estimate while a massive, 3ft 11in (1.2m) high dry lacquer head of Buddha with mother of pearl eyes surmounted by a separate Usnisha, also from Burma but dated to the 19th century, went within predictions at £6000.

The most expensive Japanese piece was a 2ft 31/2in (70cm) high wooden sculpture of a Karashishi carved in Kamakura style and probably of Edo period. Originally estimated at £500-800, this was revised to £1500-2000 but come the day there were plenty of would-be purchasers with competition from at least two bidders in the room and two telephones and it sold finally to one of the latter at £4200.