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Cinnabar lacquer box with Yongle mark – £95,000 at Reeman Dansie.

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A trio of soaraway stars – a Mary Beale portrait of her son and two fine Chinese pieces – and enthusiastic bidding on lots from the estate of the late Jane Sumner took the Reeman Dansie (20% buyer’s premium) January 26-27 sale to unexpected heights.

Some 86% of the 860 lots got away to a hammer total of £604,000 – about two and a half times pre-sale expectations.

Catalogued as ‘18th century Italian School’ and estimated at £400- 600, the small oil was recognised as Beale’s work and sold via thesaleroom.com at £100,000 (see ATG No 2478), setting a new high for the 17th century English painter.

Market decides

By contrast, the Chinese items were not exactly sleepers. The policy at the Colchester auction house is to fully describe and illustrate Chinese works of art, give them a here-to-sell estimate then leave matters to the market.

A 7½in (19.5cm) diameter cinnabar lacquer box carved with scholars next to a pagoda had minor losses but was in overall good, original condition, particularly for a piece 600 years old if the six-character Yongle (1402-24) dynasty mark was right.

Bidders clearly thought it was and, against a token £50-100 estimate, it sold to ‘an international client’ at £95,000.

Early Ming lacquer boxes represent some of the finest decoration found in the Chinese decorative repertoire.

The subject here is probably the ‘Four Favourites’ depicting the Song philosopher Zhou Dunyi seated on the terrace with two servants. The sides are decorated with composite flower-heads including lotus, camellia, magnolia, hibiscus, chrysanthemum and peony.

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Chinese porcelain dragon box and cover with Wanli mark – £35,000 at Reeman Dansie.

The sale opened with the other major Chinese star: a 9½in (24cm) wide blue and white porcelain ‘dragon’ box and cover. It bore the six-character Wanli (1563-1620) mark and the catalogue went further than usual in opining that it was ‘probably of the period’.

With three firing cracks, minor chips and wear to the glaze commensurate with age, it was in good overall condition. Very modestly pitched at £800-1200, international competition ensued before it went to a UK buyer at £35,000.

Yew beauty

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Early 18th century yew dresser – £14,000 at Reeman Dansie.

While most of the 200 furniture lots followed the familiar pattern of once sought-after material selling in three or low four-figures, the section certainly played its part.

Half-a-dozen stand-out items emerged, mainly from the estate of dealer Jane Sumner (see separate story this week).

Topping the section was a 6ft 6in (1.98m) wide, early 18th century low dresser that was unusual for its timber – yew.

The dresser had undergone some restoration over the years including a replacement drawer and suffered various small losses and repairs but, estimated at £3000-5000, it sold to a private UK buyer at £14,000.

A second piece from the estate, an early 18th century walnut wing armchair with bowed seat, cabriole legs and tapestry upholstered back, doubled expectations at £4100.

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William and Mary oyster veneered chest – £9200 at Reeman Dansie.

Meanwhile, a 3ft 1in (95cm) wide and tall William and Mary oyster veneered chest of drawers with a geometric veneered top went to trade at £9200.

Furniture from other sources underscored the attraction of oyster veneering.

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William and Mary miniature chest of drawers – £7600 at Reeman Dansie.

One was a William and Mary miniature chest of drawers, with an olive wood radially veneered rectangular top and geometric veneered sides.

Measuring just 12½in (32cm) wide, it was in very good original condition apart from the replacement bun feet and, against a £1000-2000 estimate, sold at £7600.

An 18th century and later oyster veneered desk featured an unusual foldover top opening to reveal a tooled leather writing slope and three small drawers. With a cupboard in the kneehole flanked by three drawers to each side, it measured 3ft 6in (1.06m) wide.

It had some small veneer losses and replacements, splits to the sides and later bun feet and was pitched at £300-500, but sold to the trade at £4500.

Scandi style

Coming up to date with current fashion, the furniture included half a dozen pieces of 1960s-70s Scandinavian furniture.

Best was an Indian rosewood Danish dining suite by J L Moller comprising a circular extending table and six chairs. Against a £500-700 estimate, it sold to a UK bidder at £2400.