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The sum was the second highest price seen at a regional auction this year.

A routine enquiry by email from a local couple, attaching digital images of items at their property which they hoped to sell, led to its consignment. All were modest items, except for the 16in (40cm) vase which the vendor believed her father had acquired at a charity auction in the 1960s.

Despite its damage (it had a rivet repair to the neck and some areas of loss), Oriental specialist Tom Rowsell believed it was almost certainly mark and period and a highly commercial piece in the current market. Consultant Lars Tharp later concurred with his opinion.

Bids came by nine phone lines, via the-saleroom.com and in the room from parties in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and the UK. The final bidding, well above the £10,000-20,000 estimate, came from to a Hong Kong bidder on the phone and a mainland Chinese bidder in the room, who secured the lot.

Flowers and Poetry

The vase belongs to a small group of highly desirable and, to the Chinese, emotionally powerful court wares that bear Qianlong's own poetic text.

Here the emperor's words, written in four different scripts, praise the merits of the four native flowers emblematic of the seasons in China: spring belongs to the peony, summer to the lotus, autumn to the chrysanthemum while plum blossom is the flower of winter. These auspicious species are depicted in the alternating panels against a pea green ground. A red seal mark appears to the turquoise-washed base.

Toovey's have broken their house record twice in just three months. In October an 18th century French charcoal and chalk drawing leapt from lowly expectations to sell for £320,000.

The top price posted in the UK regions in 2014 was achieved by the jewellery department at Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury who sold "the largest round natural saltwater pearl offered at auction" in May for £680,000.

The sale at Toovey's took place on December 4 and the buyer's premium was 22.5%.