The family house designed by Clough Williams-Ellis was known as Hazelwood: a large classical property on the site of what is today the Radisson Xingguo Hotel. Mao Tse Tung is known to have used and stayed at the property.
Black and white photos in the catalogue show the censer and other bronzes in situ – something that doubtless added to their appeal.
The large dent to one side was (according to one uncorroborated family story) caused by a bullet.
The bronze, weighing close to 8kg and standing 13in (33cm) high on a hardwood stand, has a six-character Ming (Xuande) mark to base but was made in the Qianlong period. A similar but smaller censer was sold at Bonhams, New York, in March 2017 for $7000.
However, bidding for this example, estimated at £1000-2000 at the sale on on November 9, reached £118,000 with the winning bid coming from overseas.
Estimated at £2000-3000 but sold to an online bidder at £72,000 at Dore & Rees (25% buyer’s premium) was a gold and silver inlaid bronze wine vessel modelled in the archaistic taste with bear feet, a handle and spout cast with mythical heads and bird-form finials.
Vessels such as this were hugely popular in the Qing court where ancient objects were particularly revered.
The Qianlong emperor himself exhorted his court and craftsmen to look to China’s archaic past for moral guidance and artistic inspiration.
This was one of a number of bronzes from the family of Dr David McCay, a doctor and later surgeon general with the Indian Medical Service in Bengal.
At the time of the Boxer Rebellion and the Siege of Peking he was sent to China to work as an army doctor.
He retired to England with a substantial collection of Chinese works of art, including a Wanli wucai garlic mouth vase that was gifted to the V&A.