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The chalk and pastel portrait of a young girl by Sir Peter Lely that sold at €420,000 (£371,680) at Ivoire Nantes. It bears the artist’s initials on the left.

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French auction house Ivoire Nantes had guided the 12 x 8in (29.5 x 20 cm) portrait of a young girl, in black and white chalk heightened with red chalk and pink pastel at just €12,000-15,000 in its June 13 sale.

But 10 phone bidders and two others who travelled to the coastal city contested it to €420,000 (£371,680) plus 24% buyer’s premium. The buyer was a private collector.

The price is amongst the highest ever paid at auction for a work on paper by the Dutch-born artist – the sum appears to be only behind the self-portrait sold at Sotheby’s last year for £720,000.

The drawing had been purchased in London in the 20th century by a Frenchman who took it back to the Dordogne region where it has remained in the same family for several generations. However, various inscriptions, stamps and earlier catalogue descriptions extended the provenance back to several prominent 18th and 19th century English drawing collections.

Provenance

The work is thought to have belonged to Jonathan Richardson the Elder and had a stamp for Richard Houlditch Junior. It also belonged to Henry Wellesley (whose collection was sold at auction on June 29, 1866).

Galerie de Bayser from Paris provided expertise for the drawing. “I expected around €150,000-200,000,” said Louis de Bayser. “The drawing had a lot of plusses. It was by a great artist, in good condition, the subject was well represented with a very good provenance. That’s why we expected a big price but not as much as this.”

He said it was also possible that the price was boosted because bidders had an idea of the sitter’s identity.