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Nelson Boarding the Victory at Portsmouth by Bernard Finegan Gribble – £5600 at Keys.

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The group, known as the Diploma Collection, comprised ‘representative work’ donated by every marine artist admitted to the society since it was founded in 1939. Still largely intact, the collection had been in storage and rarely seen until it went under the hammer at Keys (20% buyer’s premium) in Aylsham on February 9.

The auctioneer reported a “packed saleroom, buzzing phone line, and brisk commission and online bidding”. Around 70% of lots found buyers, with the majority of hammer prices within or exceeding estimates.

Competition was strongest for Bernard Finegan Gribble’s (1873-1962) depiction of Nelson boarding the Victory at Portsmouth. The signed 21in x 2ft 9in (53 x 84cm) oil on canvas was knocked down at £5600, nearly triple the top estimate.

The sale was led by 3ft 8in x 4ft 7in (1.11 x 1.39m) oil on canvas by Charles Pears (1873-1958), one of the most established names in the group. Depicting barges off Canvey Island in the Thames Estuary, the picture had last been exhibited in 1964. It bettered a guide of £4000-6000 to sell for £8200.