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This oil on canvas, signed Agnes Sheldon and dated 1937, could be the Italian riviera or perhaps an Indian hill station. But to be honest there is something not quite right about this high society scene. Perhaps it is the clash of perfect Roman columns and towering snowy peaks that suggests an element of fantasy in the scene, a dreamy mélange of the Colonial and Classical and, dare one say it, Valhallan.

Indeed, the awful truth about this scene, and its precise location, is revealed by the inscription Berchtesgaden on the back of the painting. This was the address of Adolf Hitler’s Bavarian eyrie and, looking closer at the group of three people in the painting, the man standing to the left (wearing a brown jacket) is the Führer himself.

So how did the artist manage to book herself a place on the terrace?

Well, auctioneer Paul Dougall of Buckinghamshire firm Dickins & Dougall, who offered the canvas for sale on January 13, said that Agnes Sheldon was an acquaintance of the Mitford girls, among whom Unity in particular was the handmaiden of English aristocracy’s fascist strain who were besotted with Adolf in the run-up to war. According to the vendor, whose identity Mr Dougall would not reveal, other than to say that she/he had not “inherited, bought or stolen the painting”, the other figures in the painting include the Mitford sisters and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The canvas measured 5ft by 3ft (1.52m x 91cm) and had been competently painted. However, it was for the subject matter that it was keenly sought and, in spite of severe damage that included four tears in the canvas, it was contested by telephone bidders to £1300 (plus 10 per cent premium).