Sketch catalogued as ‘probably a sketch of Christine Keeler’ by Stephen Ward, £8500 at Olympia Auctions.

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However, well before news of the subsequent sex and spying scandal broke, the ‘society’ osteopath had strong leanings towards becoming an artist.

Ward attended classes at the Slade and had a flair for portrait sketches which he developed into a profitable sideline. In 1960, the year before he introduced the 19-year-old Keeler to Profumo at Cliveden, he was commissioned by The Illustrated London News to provide a series of pictures of notable figures including members of the Royal family.

Ward had met Keeler in 1959 at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho and is known to have produced at least three drawings of her – one of which, a pastel head study from 1960-61 drawn at Cliveden is in the National Portrait Gallery.

Another more raunchy study catalogued as ‘probably a sketch of Christine Keeler’ appeared at the picture and sculpture sale at Olympia Auctions (25% buyer’s premium) on October 11. The 22 x 17in (57 x 44cm) pencil and coloured crayon sketch was signed Stephen Ward to the lower right and had a certain likeness to Keeler.

The picture came from the collection of the late John Goodyear, the Guernsey-based founder of a consultancy business. Along with his wife Mary, he amassed a large art collection in the 1970s-90s which included one of the most significant groups of Albert Goodwin (1845-1932) paintings in private hands.

Portrait head studies by Ward appear at auction from time to time, making up to £4800 for a charcoal drawing of Prince Philip (one of his Illustrated London News subjects) although many have posted sums of only a few hundred pounds.

However, judging by the performance of a sketch of Keeler’s companion Mandy Rice-Davies that made £12,000 at Christie’s in 2018 (a record for work by Ward), buyers seem willing to go to greater lengths to acquire works of a more overtly racy nature.

This was again the case at the west London sale. Estimated at £500-700, the picture at Olympia drew hefty competition and was eventually sold at £8500 to a private buyer in Hong Kong – the second-highest auction sum for Ward.