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Bidders online at thesaleroom.com, by telephone and in the room were from as far afield as Spain, Belgium and Australia and after six bids a buyer on the phone in France secured it for a hammer price of £15,000 (plus 18% buyer’s premium) against its £5000-£10,000 estimate.

East Bristol Auctions' auctioneer Andrew Stowe introduced the last lot of the sale with the words: "Listen very carefully I shall sell this only once." The buyer lives in the same region in northern France that the show is set. After the sale Stowe added: "It's going home... It's one of those great endings to a story - where it genuinely is going to a huge fan of the show, who lives in France, where the painting 'originally' spent most of it's life."

Set in a small-town café in Nouvion in German-occupied France during the Second World War, the 'Allo 'Allo series ran from 1982-92. The ‘local treasure’ portrait, by fictional painter van Klomp, was a staple prop throughout the series that protagonists were trying to move, steal or hide, and was often concealed in a knackwurst sausage.

Forgeries 

The BBC series featured the storyline that forgeries of the painting were made to confuse the Nazis, who were trying to steal it, and numerous copies were made during production, many of which were destroyed or damaged during filming.

A number of versions of the picture are believed to exist and a painting was even presented to the Marquess of Bath by the BBC for his help with an event relating to the series.

Auctioneer Stowe said this version that sold is the only one to survive all nine series of the sitcom. On the rostrum after the sale he joked "this is a world record for a van Klomp".

It previously belonged to production designer Shaun Moore, who was presented with it by crew as a souvenir. He auctioned the painting for charity in 2007 for around £4000 and it has been in private hands since then.

Stowe said the version that has just sold was last seen in the final episode in 1992, A Winkle In Time. The episode reveals the portrait is re-discovered in the arm of a statue outside Café Rene, having been repaired after a ‘booby’ was removed in a previous series. Stowe believes this painting to be the exact prop used as it features a repair identical to that seen during the episode.

It is in a production-made frame and features various prop newspaper cuttings to the reverse.