View of the Tiber beneath the bastions of Castel Sant’ Angelo, Rome by Vanvitelli.

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Buyers of high-quality Italian vedute paintings had little to tempt them, one of the few exceptions being this intriguingly provenanced and hitherto unknown Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli (1653-1736) view of the Tiber beneath the bastions of Castel Sant' Angelo, Rome, which was the star of Bonhams' (19.5/10% buyer's premium) December 8 sale. This signed 17in x 2ft 91/4in (43 x 85cm) canvas had been entered by a California-based descendant of Henry and William James and it was thought that it had originally been purchased by either The Master or the Father of Western Psychology during one of their respective Grand Tours to Italy.

Intellectual provenances don't get much more prestigious than this, and, helped by its commercially dirty condition, the painting attracted interest from at least half a dozen bidders before falling to a European collector at £300,000 - double the lower estimate and the top price of the sale.