Sotheby's sale of Old Master and British paintings yesterday produced a surprising top lot.
It had generally been expected that a re-discovered unfinished portrait of a lady by Peter Paul Rubens would capture bidders' imagination, but there was some doubt as to whether it truly was one of his works, and the audience were too cautious to reach the reserve price.
However, the day was not without competitive bidding for the top pieces. The Landseer Scottish landscape we referred to sold on target for £937,250, as did an oil on copper work by 18th century artist Franz Christoph Janneck.
Janneck's painting depicted an uplifting scene of a party enjoying themselves at a feast in a palace garden. The work charmed bidders, and it faced a little competition before being taken away for 121,250.
A surprise success was an oil-on-canvas painting Girl Holding a Basket of Plums by the less famous 17th century Dutch artist Cesar Boetius van Everdingen. The girl presents the fruit from under a circular flat hat, the fabric of which is stretched toward the centre.
Bidders pressed the price up past the £50,000-70,000 listing to finally sell for £1,161,250 to French and Co, a New York gallery.
However this paled in comparison to the top sale, which proved to be the van Dyck self-portrait. Charles I's favourite artist, painting at his zenith had produced a striking image of himself, and the work was already expected to sell for £2-3m.
Those attending proved even more eager than this however, and a fury of bids broke out, sending the work shooting up to nearly triple its highest estimate, finally leaving the stage for £8,329,250 - a world record for a Van Dyck. It must now span the Atlantic between the two buyers: art investors Philip Mold of London and Alfred Bader of Milwaukee.
Despite the Rubens, the sale showed that art collectors and investors are quite prepared to pay good money for the best pieces, as Christie's sale of a £29m Raphael and £20m Rembrandt suggested.