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The Cologne firm of Van Ham (22% buyer’s premium) is not exactly a household name in the world of international auctioneers, but at least 10 bidders from the US, Japan, the UK and Continental Europe were queuing up to compete for the outstanding quality panel painting, The Dentist, by Rembrandt’s pupil Gerrit Dou (1613-1675) that came up for sale on the third day of their June 28-30 Alte Kunst auction.

Entered by a German family who had owned the painting ever since it had been bought in the early 1920s, this 141/2 by 101/2in (37 x 27cm) panel painting, dating from c.1660, was one of the last of Dou’s much-admired ‘nacht-stukken’ scenes left in private hands. The panel was in totally untouched condition and had a provenance traceable back to the prestigious Six collection of Amsterdam, c.1703.

The auctioneers had expected the painting to fetch DM2m-2.5m, but on the day a packed saleroom saw the bidding spiral upwards to DM4.7m (£1.52m), a record for any painting sold at auction in Germany. The successful telephone bidder was described as an ‘international buyer’ underbid in the room by the Maastricht dealer Robert Noortman.