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The pair, which turned up at the Honiton salerooms of Bonhams & Brooks (15 per cent buyer’s premium) on May 25, measured 3ft 8in long by 3ft high by 2ft across (1.12m x 90cm x 60cm) and were formed as ‘mer-boys’ supporting giant clam shells. Coated in thick paint, they were probably carved from walnut, and precise date and origin were the subject of much speculation among the trade. Late 20th century Italy was a widely held belief, but such musings were rather beside the decorative point of this pair.

However, they were probably of classical influence and one dealer did say that a similar pair had once resided at Chatsworth House, an interesting sideline that further investigation could not confirm. Estimated at £3000-5000, the jardinières were contested by the decorating trade to £5400.