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Neales soon recognised the features as belonging to the celebrated Victorian art critic and watercolourist John Ruskin (1819-1900), but they couldn't identify the artist and it was entered in the catalogue simply as 'English School, mid-19th century' with an estimate of £200-400.

The miniature was then spotted before the sale by a Cumbrian collector who recognised the miniature - and, equally importantly, the frame - as the work of Carlisle-born painter Thomas Heathfield Carrick (1802-1875). Carrick was a self-taught artist who, according to Daphne Foskett's Dictionary of Miniatures, painted a number of his works after photographs. He is best known for a fine miniature of William Wordsworth, whom he knew personally, which is now in the possession of the Wordsworth Trust.

There were no labels on the back of this miniature indicating whether it was painted from life, but, given that Carrick had a wide circle of literary and artistic friends when he was working in London and Ruskin had plenty of Cumbrian connections, it is possible that it was drawn from life, perhaps when Ruskin was in his thirties (ie in the 1850s).

Miniatures by Carrick usually sell for well under £500, but in this case the £400 tendered by the Cumbrian collector, whose family has loaned a number of paintings to the Wordsworth Trust, could well prove to be a good buy given the historical importance of the sitter.