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Taking 15 minutes to sell, it came down to a battle between two phone bidders before it was knocked down to the anonymous buyer at £252,000 (plus 19.5% buyer's premium) on October 6.

Landscape with horses, a 9½ x 14in (24 x 36cm) study of ponies and a donkey in a woodland clearing, features in Graham Reynolds' 1996 catalogue raisonné with a date of 1810. According to Reynolds, the date of October 8, 1810, and the title were recorded on two old labels subsequently believed to be lost.

However, around a week before the sale, an outline of one of the labels was spotted and then both were fully revealed when masking tape on the stretcher was removed by a conservator.

Suffolk Landscape

The picture itself was one of three dated, plein-air landscapes painted in Suffolk that year that are closely related. The subject is the area around East Bergholt or nearby Stoke by Nayland.

The former owners of the picture included Lionel Bicknell Constable (the artists's son whose initials LBC were also visible on a label) as well as Sir Robert and Lady Borwick and latterly the Woodman family. The East Devon vendors were in the room to see it sell for around five times the mid estimate.

It was the highest price for a picture in the Exeter rooms since a Henry Herbert La Thangue painting sold for £360,000 back in March 2000.