Sotheby's Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale in London on July 4 was led by a historic Dutch naval scene from Willem van de Velde the Younger.
The work, entitled The Surrender of the Royal Prince during the Four Days Battle, sold for an impressive £5.3m ($8.3m) against a £2.5m high valuation. The sale represents a 112.2% increase on estimate for the painting.
Created 350 years ago, the spectacular oil on canvas scene depicts the victory of the Dutch forces at the Four Days Battle - one of the longest naval engagements in history - during the second Anglo-Dutch war (1665-1667). Van de Velde painted the scene on behalf of the Dutch Republic, but moved to London shortly afterwards and was later patronised by both Charles II and the Duke of York.
A number of his finest works are now housed at The Wallace Collection museum in London, which specialises in old master paintings.
Following the top lot was a battle scene of a different kind from Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Entitled The Battle between Carnival and Lent, the huge oak panel painting shows a debauched street scene, and is representative of Brueghel's most common theme: folklore in contrast to human nature. In an exceptional state of preservation, the work sold within estimate at £4.5m.
Now is a good time for old master paintings at auction, with artworks from this sector showing a 5.4% increase in value in the first six months of 2012 alone. This rise was perfectly demonstrated at Christie's old masters sale on July 3, which saw John Constable's The Lock set a new world record for the artist.
Sotheby's Alex Bell commented: "These are exciting times for the old masters and British paintings market. We saw strong prices tonight in an extremely dynamic sale, in which collectors were prepared to go head-to-head for the very best works."
Check back with us shortly for the results of the Bonhams old masters sale, which also took place in London last night. For a weekly round-up of the most exciting collectibles news stories and some great investment advice, sign up to our free newsletter.