Chinese lacquer plate with peacock décor – €110,000 (£92,440) at Hermann Historica.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The plate with peacock décor was catalogued as 18th/19th century and was in somewhat distressed condition, which explains the modest estimate of €280.

Long before the sale, however, it was clear that there was more to the plate than met the eye. The possibility that the lacquer work had an imperial connection was motivation enough for dealers and collectors from around the world.

In next to no time, numerous commission bids, 11 international participants on the phones and many more online drove the price past €10,000.

The bidding was far from over: the anonymous international buyer could see off his competitors only at a substantial €110,000 (£92,440), paying the top price of the sale.

The sale took place on May 16.