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Readers with photographic memories might possibly remember this image from an advertisement in the Antiques Trade Gazette for a sale held by the Wiltshire auctioneers Atwell Martin near Chippenham on September 23 last year.

Discovered in a house in Swindon, this signed and dated 1878 canvas by Switzerland’s leading 19th century genre painter was fully identified and illustrated in the Antiques Trade Gazette advertisement, coverage which – given the fact that Anker oils can fetch not far short of £400,000 at auction – should have attracted top level bidding from the trade. Yet for once a major-name picture in untouched condition slipped through the net and Mason was able to buy the painting for £29,000. The Swindon vendors were delighted enough with the price, but it proved to be a fraction of what the painting was worth at a slickly marketed international sale.

David Mason was sensible enough to insist on keeping the painting in unrestored condition for Christie’s Schweizer Kunst sale in Zurich, a factor which surely helped it climb well above the SFr340,000-380,000 estimate. The canvas measured 231/2in by 171/2in (60 x 45cm) and was one of two Albert Anker oils to fetch SFr550,000 (£239,130) at this Christie’s sale. It was bought by one of Switzerland’s half-dozen major collectors of Anker.