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It was presumably this commission which fired the enthusiasm of the recently deceased collector from the North of England whose 41 Annigoni drawings and paintings kick-started the September 12 sale of Modern British Paintings at Sotheby’s Olympia (17.5/10% buyer’s premium).

The appearance of this market-fresh private collection generated remarkable levels of international interest, particularly from Italian bidders, two of whom flew over for the sale.

Overall, the collection generated £128,330 from 41 lots, of which just six low-value items failed to find buyers. Self-portraits by Annigoni attracted the most heated competition, and this signed 131/2 by 121/4in (34 x 31cm) oil on canvas, right, of the artist at his easel sold to a London dealer at £28,000 against an estimate of £7000-9000. There was also a technically impressive pen and ink head and shoulders study of the artist executed in Florence which inspired bidding from no fewer than 15 telephones before falling to a transatlantic dealer, bidding for a client who was prepared to go to a double-estimate £7000 to secure it.

The popularity of the Annigoni collection was a major contributor to the success of this Olympia sale which registered a hammer total of £386,790 with just 25 per cent of the 228 lots left unsold.

Figuring in the casualty list were some of the 80-lot entries put into the sale by ICI which met with a fairly patchy response.

The collection did, however, include the other notable success of the Olympia sale. This was a 1941 Edward Wadsworth (1889-1949) tempera painting of a ship in dry dock – reminiscent of his much earlier Vorticist woodblock print of the same subject – which sold to a London collector at £23,000 against an estimate of £10,000-15,000.

Normally one might expect a wildlife oil by David Shepherd (b.1930) to find a private buyer at a price Cork Street and other dealers can only shake their heads at.

But there are limits to collectors’ zeal even when it comes to one of Shepherd’s trademark tuskers, and the estimate of £40,000-60,000 on his Lone Elephant proved too punchy for it to sell.