Offered on December 7 at Sotheby's Bond Street rooms, the sophisticated marquetry commode surpassed the previous high of £2.4m paid for a parcel-gilt padouk wood Chippendale cabinet at Christie's King Street two years ago.
The 4ft 7in (1.4m) wide commode, which has neoclassical engraved and inlaid motifs to the fustic, rosewood and tulipwood veneer, and gilt lacquer brass mounts, was offered by the trustees of the 10th Earl of Harrington's will trust and had passed down through the collection of the Earls of Harrington.
Sotheby's had attributed the commode to Thomas Chippendale on the basis of stylistic similarity to several known Chippendale commissions, most notably the commode in the Lady Lever Art Gallery Port Sunlight and its possible pair, sold at Christie's in 1995 for £300,000.
Unfortunately Sotheby's were not able to track down any documentary evidence connecting the Earls of Harrington to a Chippendale commission. Moreover, William Stanhope (1719-1779), the 2nd Earl, was a military man without substantial wealth who died with considerable debts.
However, the commode could have entered the family slightly later via marriage. The third Earl, Charles Stanhope, married Jane Fleming, who inherited a considerable fortune on her father's death. Her mother also remarried, her second husband being none other than Edwin Lascalles, later Baron Harewood, a famous Chippendale patron.
Apart from the fresh private provenance, Sotheby's specialist Henry House reckoned that one of the commode's major attractions was its fine state of preservation, with very little repair or replacements save a few feet mounts and one frieze handle, as well as some alterations to the internal drawer configuration. The piece had also retained all its original engraving and fine colour.
Some half a dozen clients registered to bid for it and, come the sale, three would-be purchasers were still in the running up to around the £2.5m mark, after which it became a two-way battle between a bidder in the room and another on the phone who was the successful purchaser.
Sotheby's buyer's premium is 25/20/12%