Mid-18th century Maltese writing cabinet, €91,000 (£80,530) at Metz.

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Like many of the other pieces in the sale, it was part of the legacy of an aristocratic diplomat, the one-time German ambassador to Hungary in the 1920s.

The intricately inlaid and partly ebonised walnut cabinet caught the eye of several Maltese dealers who were naturally also attracted by the fact that all the pieces in the sale were offered without reserve.

After a long competition, they were left empty-handed because their compatriot, a private collector, outbid them with his final offer of €91,000 (£80,530) on March 24-25.