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The ‘Continental’ piece was discovered to be an autograph work by the foremost late 19th century New York cabinetmakers Herter Brothers.

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When offered in an earlier sale there had been little interest in the piece of furniture, right, which the cataloguer believed to be a late 19th century Continental breakfront side cabinet. It was made in rosewood and set with an extraordinary array of marquetry inlay, gilt brass repoussé plaques, panels of painted putto and carved figural and foliate decoration. Extraordinary, certainly, but it lacked its marble top and - measuring an imposing 5ft 6in (1.67m) wide and standing 4ft high (1.22m) - it had raised no bids from the local trade at its £1500 estimate. It was a disappointment for the consignor, a German lady living in the Litham area.

However, Mr Perry believed the idiosyncratic piece deserved more exposure and persuaded his porters to lug it upstairs where it could be photographed properly and promoted in the ATG.

Several members of the American trade caught sight of the image and recognised the 'Continental' piece as an autograph work by the foremost late 19th century New York cabinetmakers Herter Brothers. Herter specialised in this sort of fantastical furniture in the Renaissance revival idiom and it has a small but serious following in the States.

As a result, the item which could have been picked up for less than £2000 at the earlier sale, was elevated to a piece of some importance. Five telephone lines were booked and bidding jumped in substantial increments to around £30,000. At this price level two New York dealers really got stuck in and traded blows up to £82,000.

Roland Arkell