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Held in conjunction with Bonhams, the 134-lot sale was topped by this oil on canvas, right, by Walter Frederick Osborne R.H.A. (1859-1903). Driving a Bargain, a Breton village scene painted in Pont-Aven in 1883, hadn’t been on the open market since 1884 when it was exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy.

“Perhaps the major factor in the picture’s favour was that it hadn’t been hawked around,” said
auctioneer James O’Halloran. The ever-desirable fresh-to-market quality combined with “fantastic” condition saw the 23 by 18in (58 x 46cm) signed canvas go over-estimate to take €620,000 (£410,000) from London-based agent Mark Adams bidding on behalf of an anonymous private client.

Finale, a 2ft 10in by 3ft 8in (86cm x 1.11m) signed oil on canvas by Sir John Lavery R.A. (1856-1941) of a lady in a blue dress at the piano, had been sourced privately from a Bonhams client in Blackpool who had bought the picture back in April 1946 from J. Davey & Sons, Liverpool for the
princely sum of £75.

“This was one of those situations where the estimate proved to be just right,” said Mr O’Halloran. “In today’s climate, when buyers are so easily put off by unrealistic estimates, auctioneers need to give attractive guide prices.”

The €350,000-450,000 estimate attracted fierce competition from the London trade and a New York buyer. It eventually fell to a London dealer at €550,000 (£360,000).

The sale was also buoyed up by a small collection of pictures from the collection of the former Taoiseach Charles Haughey. Haughey is either loved or loathed by the Irish but the
inclusion of his pictures, the best of which was The Stations of the Cross (1964) by Patrick Collins HRHA (1911-1994), which took €50,000 (£32,500), certainly gained the auctioneers column inches and television airtime.

Exchange rate: £1=€1.52