Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Rediscovered art sells for £2.8m

Giambattista Tiepolo's Portrait of a lady as Flora
Portrait of a lady as Flora was rediscovered a few years ago

An Italian masterpiece which was hidden in the attic of a French chateau since the 19th Century has been sold for £2.84m at auction in London.

Giambattista Tiepolo's Portrait of a lady as Flora had been expected to fetch £900,000 at the Christie's sale.

It is thought the painting was hidden by the seller's grandparents because it shows a woman baring her naked breast.

Canaletto's masterpiece The Grand Canal, Venice sold for £3.85m at the same auction.

But a second Canaletto failed to sell. It was hoped the two masterpieces, both views of Venice, would fetch a combined £11m.

'Exceptional' pictures

Richard Knight, international director of Christie's Old Master Department, said the sales were proof that while the credit crunch may be hitting some art auctions, there was still a demand for rare works.

Canaletto's The Grand Canal, Venice, set the highest price of the evening

"We are pleased with the results of the auction which attracted strong and committed bidding for rare and exceptional pictures, and which illustrated a continuing demand for works of art which are privately sourced and fresh to the market," he said.

Mr Knight added: "Tiepolo's rediscovered masterpiece drew significant international interest from collectors and admirers alike, and attracted determined bidding this evening before selling to a client in the room for £2.84m, far exceeding its pre-sale estimate.

"We are also pleased with the result of Canaletto's view of the Grand Canal which was offered for sale for the first time having passed by family descent since it was commissioned in 1738."

Further sale highlights included Portrait of Conradus ViŽtor by Frans Hals which sold for £1.16m, and a rarely seen early 14th Century depiction of the Madonna and Child by Siennese artist Segna di Bunaventura which sold for £937,250.

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