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But if artists are American, then different commercial criteria apply, and the fact that William Michael Harnett (1848-1892) not only spent most of his life in Philadelphia but was also born in Ireland gave this modest looking 41/2 by 31/2in (11 x 9cm) canvas plenty of potential.

Widely represented in American museums, Harnett was a still life painter who made a speciality out of trompe l’oeil subjects and compositions incorporating elements that could be regarded as Americana. His work can fetch substantial six-figure prices but this one, however, was signed and dated Munchen 1881, making it one of the slightly less commercially attractive works Harnett executed while studying Old Masters in Munich from 1881-1885.

The painting, which had been entered by a trade vendor, was nonetheless in untouched condition in its original frame and this helped it sell to a provincial dealer at £32,000, underbid by a New York dealer.

The other name to watch at this Lewes sale was the little-known Shropshire-based watercolourist Miss Ruth A. Hobson (Exh. 1909-1913) whose fairy subjects belied a career whose highlight was just a single exhibit at the Royal Academy by attracting bids of £1300 and £1850 from the trade.