The pair formed part of a 250-lot collection of 18th century decorative arts removed from a town house in central London.
The Japanese bowls and covers, one decorated with phoenix, the other with dragons, were thought to date to the mid 18th century. They were united at some point in the 1760s or '70s by Louis-Marie-Augustin, 5th Duc d'Aumont (1709-82). The phoenix vessel was acquired from Jean de Jullienne, who had been director of the Gobelins tapesty factory. The celebrated bronzier Pierre Gouthière was then commissioned to add neoclassical gilt-bronze mounts to both.
After his death in 1792, the brûle parfums and other pieces from d'Aumont's collection were bought by the dealer Philippe-François Julliot on behalf of Louis XVI, with the intention of installing them in the museum planned for the Louvre. The king was executed the following year and by 1795, as revolution raged, the perfume burners were recorded in the inventory from the Depot de Nesle - a central warehouse established and run by the republican government to reorganise cultural properties. They passed through several more hands and later entered the collection of La Comtesse D'Aubigny, who sold them at Christie's London in July 1976 for £4000.
As proof that the finery of the ancien regime still carries clout in the market, four bidders in the room and on the phone at Sotheby's on April 29 took the price well above the £150,000-250,000 estimate before they were eventually hammered down to a private collector on the phone.
The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%.