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The cup was the star lot of a sale of Chinese works of art that Lyon & Turnbull co-produced with their sister company Freeman’s of Philadelphia.

Lee Young, head of Asian art at Lyon & Turnbull said “The Ming Xuande (1426-35) mark and period blue and white Stem Cup is a rare masterpiece and is virtually unseen outside museum collections."

The piece featured the Xuande six-character mark and was painted in dark blue with two five-clawed dragons.

The cup sold for within its estimate of £1.95m-3.89m (HK$22,000,000-44,000,000) to a collector from China.

“This is a great result,” Young said. “Bringing the sale to Hong Kong has proved to be the right decision for both Lyon & Turnbull and our partner Freeman’s.”

The cup was consigned by Staffordshire University who received it in a 270-item bequest from Ernest Thornhill in 1944.

Rosy Crehan, deputy vice-chancellor of the University, said that the funds raised from the sale will go towards the curation and conservation of the remaining pieces of the Thornhill collection.

The buyer’s premium was 25%/20%/12%.