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It had passed by descent in the family of Sir Lawrence Dundas (1710-82) and his descendants, the Marquesses of Zetland, and was appearing at auction for the first time.

"Sir Lawrence came from an old Scottish family and began selling stockings and cloths but with 'judicious treating' was able to make good money," said Lawrences' specialist, Richard Gold. "During the Seven Years War (1754-63) he had the contracts to supply bread and forage for the allies in Germany and made a further fortune speculating in Government and East India stock.

"He employed leading designers to decorate and furnish his fine houses across the country: Dundas House in Edinburgh; Aske Hall in Richmond, North Yorkshire; Moor Park in Hertfordshire; and his London townhouse, 19 Arlington Street.

"He enlisted Gobelins for tapestries, François Boucher for paintings, Capability Brown for the gardens and Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale for furniture. Chippendale supplied not only the grandest furniture but also bedroom furniture in the 'plain General Taste'."

Connection to Chippendale

An old label on this 3ft high by 3ft 5in wide (91 x 1.04m) commode links it to the Dundas collection at Aske Hall in Yorkshire. In both design and construction it shares much in common with chests at Dumfries House now ascribed to Chippendale and another to be found in the collection of the Earls of Pembroke at Wilton.

"Although this item is not recorded as a commissioned piece by Chippendale, it is almost certainly by him," says Mr Gold.

Expected to make £30,000-40,000 at the sale on January 16, it sold at £46,000 to a local dealer in the room thought to be acting as an agent.

The buyer's premium was 22%.