An ornate ash armoire with a mysterious past is available for $348,500 from New Orleans dealer Rau Antiques.
It was created for the Winter Palace under Tsar Nicholas II, c.1895, around the time he ascended the throne. The unsigned 11ft (3.35m) high architectural mirrored cupboard is carved with Corinthian columns, stepped arches and elaborate turrets. It disappeared during the upheaval of the Revolution.
The armoire resurfaced in 1935 when it arrived in Ghent by boat. It lay there untouched until 1940 when the ship’s owner died and customs officials seized the cargo due to unpaid harbour charges.
Mr Brands and Mr Rogge, partners in an import-export cheese firm, purchased the armoire along with a similar library cabinet, which had also been on board. The two reassembled pieces were put on public display in Brands’ warehouse shortly after the Second World War, attracting large crowds of admirers.
Rau Antiques acquired the armoire 15 years ago from the family of Rogge, and sold it in 2003 to a client who put it in his Miami penthouse surrounded by modern art. Now it is back on the market at a lower price, following the loss of an original photograph of the armoire in the Winter Palace (lost during Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans in 2005).