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The Irish multi-millionaire John Magnier has been one of the most voracious buyers of Munnings in recent years, but on November 27 at Christie’s (19.5/10% buyer’s premium) pre-Christmas Sporting Sale in London it was thought to be the Ohio-based clothing store magnate and noted 20th century art collector Leslie Herbert Wexner, founder of The Limited, who bid £1.35m for Beryl Riley-Smith on Snowflake shown right.

Painted in October 1925 on a canvas measuring 3ft 4in by 4ft 11/2in (1.02 x 1.26m), this prime example of the artist’s equestrian portraits had been commissioned in 1925 by Mr and Mrs W. Riley-Smith of Toulston near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, and was exhibited at the Royal Academy two years later.

The painting, estimated at £600,000-800,000, was completely fresh to the market, having remained in the family of the sitter where it had been hanging, according to Christie’s, “a mile and half from the spot where it was painted”.

The Munnings was far and away the main highlight of an otherwise patchily contested King Street Sporting sale which totalled a premium-inclusive £2.75m from 72 lots, of which only 42 (59 per cent) found a buyer.