Forbidden City cabinets estimated at $184,000 with Bonhams

Bonhams has announced its Chinese Art auction, with furniture from the Forbidden City - including a rare pair of 18th century gilt-lacquer cabinets - playing an important role.

Chinese Imperial gilt-lacquer cabinets
A similar pair is still housed within China's Forbidden City, in the private retirement palace of the Qianlong emperor

The auction will take place on May 16 in London, with the gilt-lacquer cabinets holding the highest estimate at £80,000-120,000 ($122,722-184,082).

The cabinets originate from the collection of Luis Valera y Delavat, a Spanish nobleman sent to China to protect his nation's interests.

During his time in the country, he established a reputation as a great Asian art collector, writing numerous books on the subject.

According to his family, the cabinets were acquired around 1900 from Beijing's Forbidden City.

This appears likely as there is a "unique likeness" to a pair of cabinets still housed in the Yucuixuan, a hall within the Qianlong emperor's private palace.

The Qianlong emperor (1711-1799) was known as a great collector and patron of the arts, and played a large role in the design and decoration of his retirement palace.

Chinese Zitan double gourd plaque
The plaque will bestow its new owner with all sorts of good luck

Also featuring will be a rare imperial double gourd gilt-bronze zitan and hardwood "Da Ji" plaque, which is estimated at £15,000-20,000 ($23,010-30,680).

The 18th century piece bears an auspicious design of five bats that symbolise the five wishes: old age, wealth, health, love of virtue and a peaceful death.

Further wishes are implied in the double gourd shape and by the rare double catfish handles, which mean, "may you have plenty year after year".

Also on May 16 will be Bonhams' Fine Japanese Art auction, which stars a remarkable articulated sculpture of a hawk.

Christie's also recently announced the highlights of its Hong Kong 2013 Spring Auctions. Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for the results of this sale and all the latest news from across the auction world.

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