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Late 19th century surcoat or longgua, estimated at €4500-6000 at Van Ham in Cologne.

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It later came into the possession of the American magician William Ellsworth Robinson (1861-1918) who, in 1900 was hired by the Folies Bergère in Paris.

There he adopted the stage identity of Chung Ling Soo, modelling himself on an authentic Chinese magician called Ching Lung Foo.

Robinson stayed in character on and off stage, never removing his Chinese costume and giving interviews only through an interpreter.

His highly successful career came to an untimely end in 1918, when he was appearing in London. His famous bullet-catching trick literally misfired and he was shot in the chest by his assistant, dying the next day.

Robinson’s robe was acquired by another illusionist, Neil Sinclair Nesbitt (1886-1936), who performed as The Great Nesbitt and also recreated several tricks originally invented by Ching Lung Foo.

The robe and several other of Nesbitt’s Chinese accessories passed by descent to the current owner who consigned them to Van Ham in Cologne for the sale on May 27.

Four pairs of highly decorated fans are estimated at between €600-1200 per pair. The longgua, together with a small case decorated with Nesbitt’s ink drawing of a theatre interior, is expected to bring €4500-6000.

van-ham.com