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The collection, being heralded as the most important single owner collection ever to come on the London market, was looted by the Nazis and only recently returned to the family by the Austrian government. The family, in reduced circumstances and without the means to house the collection – the palace which was its original home was reduced to rubble during the Second World War – decided to sell.

Armed with a fistful of superlatives and supported by the most senior of his staff, Lord Hindlip unveiled the cream of this exceptional 250-lot
collection to the press at King Street on Monday, April 12.

On show was a wide variety of art and objects: billed as the star lot is one of three Frans Hals portraits, the oil on canvas Portrait of Tieleman Roosterman, dated 1634, which has an estimate of £2.5-£3.5m.

Other paintings of note include an oil on canvas by David Teniers II of Archduke Leopold in his picture gallery, dated 1653 and estimated at £600,000-800,000.

What Lord Hindlip dubbed “the best clock we’ve had for sale here in my time”, a Louis XVI ormolu-mounted ebony longcase clock by Balthazar Lieutaud, which stood impressively in the corner of the room at 8ft 9in (2.67m), is estimated at £500,000-800,000.

The other outstanding single lot was the Rothschild Prayerbook (“miraculous” – Hindlip), a Book of Hours, use of Rome, in Latin, illuminated on vellum, Flanders, and dated c.1510-15. Containing 67 full-page miniatures, including works by Gerard Horenbout, the Master of the Older Prayerbook of Maximilian, Simon Bening and other artists, it is estimated at £1.5-2m.

As a section, however, it is the lesser priced scientific instruments which are expected to cause the greatest stir.

As many as 13 items from this section had been chosen to grace the display of top lots, mostly glittering in gold or silver plate and all boasting outstanding workmanship. Leading these for value was a 16th century French armillary sphere, 211/4in (54cm) high, estimated at £400,000-600,000, a brass astrolabe, Flemish c.1590 71/2in (19cm) high, estimated at £150,000-200,000, and a 41/2in (10.8cm) wide Habermel book compendium, pictured above, with instruments that fit neatly into the covers, also estimated at £150,000-200,000.