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Provenanced to a Swedish private collection, where it had been since 1965, Sur Côte d’Azur, shown here, was a signed and dated 1896 canvas, measuring 2ft 8in by 2ft 11/2in (81 x 65cm), was in unlined condition and carried what many viewed as a temptingly modest estimate of SK300,000-400,000 (£21,290-£28,390).

Stewart was a Philadelphia-born artist who trained and worked in Paris where he specialised in portraits, landscapes and views of Venice in a winningly decorative Belle Epoque style.

Pretty women, yachting, the French Riviera and an American artist was a highly commercial combination and a lengthy bidding duel developed between the MacConnal-Mason gallery on the phone and a dealer in the room, the latter eventually prevailing at a massive SK2.8m (£198,720). This would appear to be the second highest price achieved for the artist after the $770,000 (£401,040) paid for Five o’clock Tea at Christie’s New York in November 1990.