The Lake of Albano and Castel Gandolfo by John Robert Cozens - £2.1m at Sotheby's.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The 17in x 2ft 1in (43 x 62cm) watercolour over pencil was described by the auctioneers as "exceptional in every sense" and, against a £500,000-700,000 estimate, it duly attracted interest from a number of key players in the market.

The buyer was the Canadian billionaire businessman and collector Baron David Thomson of Fleet, a patron of the Art Gallery of Ontario, who saw off interest from the London dealer Guy Peppiatt.

The vendor - identified within the trade as controversial fertility treatment doctor Professor Ian Craft - had purchased the atmospheric work at Sotheby's in November 1991 for £178,000.

The price here represented not just a significant return on investment but also a dramatic new high for Cozens, easily surpassing the artist's previous record of £240,000 for Cetara, Gulf of Salerno, Italy at Christie's in November 2004.