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Born in Upper Ementhal in 1806, Rindisbacher emigrated with his family and 180 other Swiss settlers to the Red River Colony at Selkirk, a few miles south of Lake Winnipeg, in 1821. For the next seven years he sketched and painted the scenes he witnessed during his daily life, receiving many orders from traders and officials before crop failure and a flood in 1826 forced a move south to St. Louis, where he died of cholera aged just 28.

As a result of his early death, works by Rindisbacher are extremely rare on the open market. The last example to register on Art Sales Index’s radar was a watercolour of a buffalo hunt which fetched $45,000 (£24,725) at Christie’s New York way back in May 1992.

Eleven years on another Rindisbacher unexpectedly turned up – catalogued as “Canadian School, 19th century” – in Hy. Duke’s (15% buyer’s premium) March 13 sale in Dorchester, having been discovered, unframed, in a folio of otherwise nondescript prints and drawings owned by a local private vendor. Depicting the historically and ethnographically fascinating subject, The Indian Chief Black Robe from Portage de Prairie, approaching the Colony House, upon a visit to the Governor, this small, inscribed 73/4 by 91/4in (19.5 x 23.5cm) watercolour was in unusually fresh condition, having been removed from an album some time in its fairly recent history.

In the weeks before the sale it didn’t take long for the true authorship of the watercolour to be identified by several interested parties, encouraging the auctioneers to think that it might well make as much as £5000. In the event, thanks to interest from a number of Canadian museums, the final price was £35,500, paid in the room by a London trade buyer, underbid by one of at least four active telephones. The final destination of this early Canadian rarity remains unclear.

Also making an impression at this Dorset sale was a pair of marine oils by the Portsmouth painter Thomas Elliot (fl.1790-1800), which, despite being in lined and overcleaned condition, somehow managed to find a private buyer at a double-estimate £17,000, and the Jan Baptist Lodewyck Maes (1794-1856) genre oil, The Letter to the Bride, and Henri Harpignies’ (1819-1916) Barbizon landscape, Bords de l’Allier, both of which sold within estimate for £12,000.