At least two dealers were prepared to back their hunch that this work offered at Dominic Winter's sale on December 7 was a 15th century Netherlandish painting of a Cistercian Monk at Prayer. Estimated at just £200-300, it sold at £60,000.

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At Dominic WinterÕs sale in South Cerney, this 141/2 x 83/4in (37 x 22cm) oil on board of a Cistercian Monk at Prayer was catalogued as a 19th century copy after the Flemish master Hans Memling (c.1433-1494) and given a £200-300 estimate.

It came from a local private house where the majority of pictures had been sold earlier through one of the main London salerooms. The auctioneers from the capital, however, had turned down this picture along with a number of other copies of Old Masters in the collection.

The fact that it was in a Victorian neo-Gothic frame and that it was coarsely painted, lacking the finesse of a great master, led Dominic WinterÕs cataloguers and their specialist adviser to assume that it was a 19th century copy.

However, two dealers clearly thought differently and were prepared to take a punt that it was indeed a genuine 15th century work.

Bidding started at £1000 and, although one bidder in the room was prepared to go to a few thousand, it eventually came down to a long telephone battle between the two. It was finally knocked down at £60,000 to a London dealer, with the underbidder coming from the Dutch trade.

The style of the work was certainly Northern European, and 15th century Netherlandish paintings are not regularly seen on the market. It may well be this, rather than a direct connection to Hans Memling, that explains the price.

Although it may not have reached the heights of the £2.2m Rembrandt self portrait that sold at nearby auctioneers Moore Allen & Innocent in October, the price was nevertheless more than any previous individual picture lot sold at Dominic Winter.

The buyerÕs premium was 17.5 per cent.

Alex Capon