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While the painting was unusually large and in wonderful condition, Lempertz attributed the high price to the fact that two clients were convinced of the identities of either sitter and/or artist, whom Lempertz had not – and still have not – been able to identify themselves.

The second sleeper at the same sale was a black- and red-lacquered Chinese plate with phoenix, flower and branch patterning, 13in (32.5cm) in diameter and dating from the ‘16th century or slightly later’; this flew 20 times estimate to €24,000 (£15,400).