Portrait of a Black Courtier, €160,000 (£139,130) at Lempertz.

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On November 18, it became one of the unexpected top lots at Lempertz (26% buyer’s premium) in Cologne. There it was no longer thought to be by Pesne, but was attributed to an unnamed German painter from 1760-70.

The 2ft 6in x 1ft 11in (77 x 58cm) canvas was certainly unusual. At the time, it was far from customary to devote an entire portrait to a black courtier. Servants were normally portrayed, if at all, in the background of group portraits.

Whoever commissioned the painting in Cologne obviously had great respect for the sitter.

The painting now came from the same south German collector who had loaned it to the Berlin exhibition in 1981. It was in the catalogue for €12,000-16,000, but bidders from several quarters drove the price ever upwards.

An international dealer had to invest a substantial €160,000 (£139,130).

The same guide was set for a Still Life with a Römer, Venetian Flute Glass, Silver Cup. The 3ft x 2ft 4in (91 x 70cm) panel was dated 1649 and the work of the Haarlem painter Willem Claesz Heda who was famous for the restrained colour palette of his paintings.

Today’s collectors still appreciate his works, as can be seen by the result of €220,000 (£191,305). The buyer was an American collector.