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Eight foot long, 6ft 4in wide and a towering 6ft 10in high (2.44 x 1.93 x 2.08m), the bed was characteristic of the sort of decorative and architectural material that made up this property, but the wealth of carved decoration made it something special. Both the elaborately carved headboard and footboard (the one standing behind the other in our illustration) are inset with unsigned bronze panels decorated with what the catalogue describes simply as “nymphs and putti”, but taking a glass to the illustration one can clearly see that the nymphs are not dependent for their fun on the presence of putti alone. In the headboard panel, one naked couple are dancing while another is locked in an embrace. In the footboard panel our jolly nymphs appear to be sporting with centaurs, satyrs and the like and two languorous female figures flank a cartouche in the carved panel that tops the footboard.

All this, one might of thought, warranted a somewhat stiffer estimate than the $4000-6000 set by Doyle’s, and indeed when they first saw it, in an old photograph, they were thinking in terms of $25,000-30,000. However, when the piece itself appeared, condition was not at all what they had hoped.

Some of the carving had been damaged and there were several pieces missing – look at the top right hand side of the headboard crest, which also appears to lack another bronze plaque – and though the auctioneers did later find some of the missing bits, they decided to drop the estimate to a level that would serve as much as a temptation as a price guide.

Reid Dunavent of Doyle’s thought the piece dated to 1885-1905, but was less certain about its precise European origin and, like me, would love to know more. The present strength of the pound saw a lot of British buying at the East 87th Street salerooms and I am told that it was an English dealer, on the telephone, who finally secured the bed at $77,000 (£41,075).

The sale also included a lot of Tiffany Studios glass and bronze, even the odd piece of furniture (much of it from one collection). Shown here is an exceptional reticulated Royal Worcester chocolate pot by George Owen, a craftsman who so jealously guarded his special skills that it is said he would lock the door whilst working and not open it to anyone, apprentice or manager, until he had hidden his work and tools.