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A work catalogued as ‘Continental School’ that drew attention at Clevedon Salerooms, selling at £8500.

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It piqued the interest of a number of bidders at Clevedon Salerooms (22% buyer’s premium) on September 2, including parties from overseas.

The 2ft 7in x 3ft 5in (80cm x 1.04m) oil on canvas had been inherited by the vendor from a well-travelled relative.

Georgian artist in frame

Research suggested that the picture might be by Felix Varla (1903-86), a Georgian artist who specialised in paintings with fishermen or rural workers but whose trademark style normally incorporated more elongated figures.

With some difficulty deciphering the signature, the auction house deliberately kept the cataloguing as open as possible and it was offered simply as ‘Continental School’ and estimated at £300-500.

The competition for the picture, though, suggested bidders had a good idea of an attribution, whether to Varla or another hand, and it was eventually knocked down at £8500 to a bidder on thesaleroom.com in Greece.