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This reliance on what can sometimes be pure impulse buys can produce some surprising results, such as the £8000 bid for this pair of small unsigned 19th century Dutch townscapes on panel, top right, offered by Burton-on-Trent auctioneer Richard Winterton (15% buyer's premium) on August 25. They were estimated at just £300-400.

Of moderate quality, and in the style of the Koekkoek family, these 7in (18cm) high panels came from a deceased's estate and were in untouched condition and in their original frames. Apparently the fact that they were a pair was the driving consideration for two private bidders. One of them pushed the price up to £8000, a level that it would be difficult to imagine the trade paying in the current market for unsigned paintings of this size and quality.

The well-heeled buyer is looking forward to researching his purchases and has already informed the auctioneers that they probably date from c.1850, but as yet he hasn't come up with an artist's name.

A similar price was achieved for this rather earlier Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) half-length portrait of a Georgian gentleman, bottom right, offered at Rowley Fine Art's (15% buyer's premium) September 7 sale at Tattersalls in Newmarket.

Again privately entered, this time by a Norfolk vendor who had acquired it some 50 years earlier, this 2ft 5in x 2ft (74 x 61cm) canvas did bear a
signature, but this was generally agreed to date from around the time when the painting was cleaned, lined and restored prior to its original

Ramsay is one of the major names of Scottish 18th century portraiture and his paintings of alluring female subjects can still fetch spectacular results when they are in the right condition. Restored portraits of unidentified men are a rather less commercial proposition, but the image was deemed handsome enough to attract £8500 from the trade underbid by a private. The pre-sale estimate was £1000-1500.