A previously unrecorded drawing of Venice from Giovanni Canaletto set a surprising world record at Sotheby's on July 4.
The work soared past its £500,000 high estimate to achieve £1.9m ($3m) - a 289% increase on its initial valuation. It also obliterated the previous world record for a drawing by Canaletto at auction, achieving a 294.4% rise on the £493,103 ($715,000) realised by his view of Warwick Castle in New York in 1986.
The sale was the first time one of Canaletto's drawings of Venice had appeared at auction for over 30 years, with the excitement surrounding the work prompting an intense bidding war between six resolute collectors.
After being acquired by the French landscape painter Charles-Theodore Sauvageot in 1876, the work had been passed down through his family ever since. Not realising the worth of the drawing, his descendants had hidden it away in a dark corner of their home, which proved to be a good idea as the majority of Canaletto works are often spoiled by being hung in too much light.
The piece, which shows a view of the famed Campo de San Giacomo di Rialto, is considered a superb example of Canaletto's technical skill, displaying his renowned usage of light, and is thought to have been intended as a standalone work rather than a study for a larger painting. Until the auction, it was previously unrecorded in any books and completely unknown to scholars.
The current world record for any Canaletto work at auction stands with his View of the Grand Canal from Palazzo Balbi to the Rialto, which sold for £18.6m in 2005.