1661AR03C.jpg
The sleeper at Lays of Penzance was this Qianlong sealmark and period enamel vase which took £5000.

Best-seller was a red-ground Chinese vase with a flared neck, knopped body and domed foot - a form loosely based on an archaic bronze. Decorated with red, green, pink, yellow and blue enamels, it depicted auspicious Buddhist emblems including the Endless Knot, the Lotus and the Paired Fish. Although the vase bore a well-executed Qianlong (1736-95) sealmark to its base, Lay's specialist consultant erred on the side of caution cataloguing the 14 1/2in (37cm) vessel as Qianlong style. Stored in an outhouse for the last half century, it was consigned by the wife of a former local dealer, who entered a further 20 lots of 19th century Oriental works.

Two specialist London dealers and a West Country dealer felt confident enough of the vase's genuine imperial heritage to take bidding way past the £100-150 guideline. The hammer eventually came down to one of the London dealers bidding on the telephone who secured it at £5000.

Imperial Chinese sleepers do appear in these Cornish sales from time to time, but a more far-flung oddity for a provincial outing was a 12in (30cm) long Maori greywacke hand club. Like Chinese imperial works, such antipodean weapons are often faked and, although this example sported the correct hourglass-shaped thumbhole - rather than the telltale even-sided hole commonly found on modern copies - auction specialist opinion was split as to whether it was "right" or not.

In the event, the market decided this private entry was the genuine article and, despite its greyish-green colour, it fetched £1100 from one of several Oceanic specialists vying for ownership.

Elsewhere, an extensive ready-made shell collection with some unusual coral specimens and large conch shells was the target of a determined collector bidding through a dealer who secured it at £2100.

Another exotic touch was provided by a 16th century Italian istoriato-footed dish painted with Moses before Pharaoh. Despite some damage and restoration, it sold at £1300.

Back on home ground among the silver, the good condition and an attractively pitched £300-500 estimate helped a 23oz 1764 tankard by London smith William Cripps to a winning £1200.

Moving into local territory, there was a 16-lot Troika collection, all of which sold. An unusual shaped 12 1/4in (31cm) Roland Bence vase with a rectangular body and trumpet neck and foot, led the way with a private bid of £1000. Another local offering of the kind frequently seen at Lays' sales was a Newlyn copper mirror decorated with facing fish. Measuring 2ft x 16 1/2in (61cm x 41cm) it sold at £750.