Claude-Joseph Vernet's 'Avignon' painting makes $8m

"Avignon", a large landscape painting by French artist Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), has sold for £5.3m ($8m) in London.

Avignon Vernet auction
“Avignon” - the only known Vernet original depicting the artist’s birthplace

Estimated to be worth £5m, the artist-signed and dated oil on canvas auctioned as part of Sotheby's Old Master and British Paintings evening sale (July 3), bringing a 6.7% increase on its £5m top estimate.

Completed in 1757, the expansive work is the only known Vernet original depicting the south-eastern French town of Avignon - the artist's birthplace.

Labelled "one of Vernet's finest views" by art historian Giuliano Briganti, the canvas was presumed "lost" until it was discovered in 1954, in a private collection near Bristol, UK.

Before the London sale, which saw El Greco's 17th century work Saint Dominic in Prayer achieve a new world record price for the artist at auction, Sotheby's Andrew Fletcher commented: "Thanks to ["Avignon's"] rare appearances, and to its having passed through only a handful of collections in its 250 year history, this superb work is preserved in impeccable condition."

Vernet's atmospheric 1752 landscape, Le Soir, a Mediterranean harbour scene at sunset, auctioned for $2.1m at Christie's in December 1999 - further demonstrating that on the rare occasions large-scale works by Vernet do come to market, they generally sell with great results.

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