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However, with the prices of British post-War and Contemporary art climbing ever higher, even the major names of 19th century watercolour painting are beginning to look increasingly affordable, if not actually cheap by comparison.

This fine Edward Lear (1812-1888) watercolour, right, entitled Edfoo, was perhaps a case in point when it came up for sale at the Stansted Mountfitchet rooms of Sworders (15% buyer's premium) on May 25.

Consigned from a local deceased's estate and not seen on the market for at least 30 years, this 12 1/2in x 20in (32 x 51cm) sheet was dated 12 Febry.1854 sunrise and was extensively inscribed with Lear's trademark colour notes.

With an estimate of £3000-4000, a substantial view of one of Ancient Egypt's most celebrated sights by one of the 19th century's most
celebrated topographical artists, was always going to attract interest.

On the day, competition between three bidders on the phone and one in the room resulted in a final bid of £6800, from a Scottish private buyer. This was considerably above the modest pre-auction estimate, but the price makes an interesting comparison with - to pick just two examples, albeit from a country house sale - the £11,000 and £7500 respectively bid for two smaller works on paper by John Piper (1903-1992) and Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) at Woolley & Wallis's May 18 Ashley Manor sale.