The opening lots of a recent sale at Reeman Dansie of Colchester comprised a collection of Chinese porcelain which included a rare bowl that was apparently a favourite resting place for the family cat.
The collection came from the great granddaughter of the late Major-General J. W. Tulloch C.B (1861-1934), an officer in the Indian Army at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, (1898-1900) who also served as the British military attaché to Japan at the time of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05).
Travelling extensively in the Far East at the turn of the 20th century, he amassed a large collection. Much of it was donated to Liverpool museums in the 1950s with only these ten lots remaining in the family.
Although only loosely catalogued (and carrying a global estimate of up to £6000), many lots excelled during 25 minutes of bidding with this 12in (30cm) blue and white bowl providing the most spectacular of a clutch of multi-estimate prices.
It sailed past its £200-300 estimate to bring a house record £90,000 - prompting one national newspaper to use the headline Moggy Ming brings £108,000 (the £90,000 hammer price with 20% buyer's premium added).
In addition to the decoration of five-toed dragons amid clouds, the rim carries a six-character reign mark in a single horizontal line for the Ming emperor Xuande (1425-35).
Ceramic production during this time was the near-exclusive domain of the imperial Jingdezhen kilns - the period noted for the development and refinement of porcelain production, and (for the first time) the widespread use of reign marks on finished wares.
Fine quality but thickly-potted 15th century bowls of this type are generally called 'dice bowls' in the West (they were believed to have been used in throwing dice) but may have been simply harder-wearing vessels made to be given as gifts by members of the court.
This example carried several cracks and a riveted repair and, in a marketplace littered with fakes, this poor condition and its provenance - that included the fragments of an old Chinese label to the base - encouraged belief in its authenticity.
The successful buyer at the sale on August 5-6 was an online bidder from Mainland China.
Middlesex saleroom Bainbridge's sold a similar Xuande dragon bowl in much better condition as part of the Gertrude Harriman collection in May 2012 for £1.4m. The Harrimans had bought it from Bluetts in 1948 for £65.
The previous house record for Reeman Dansie was the £61,000 bid for a Chinese Export 'Hongs' bowl back in 1996.