Temptation of Adam by the French artist Jean-Baptiste Santerre.

You have 2 more free articles remaining

In fact, this isn't a religious painting at all, but rather a portrait of the French Prince Regent, Philippe Duc d'Orleans, with his official mistress Madeleine de la Vieuville, Madame de Parabère.

Offered at the New York rooms of Doyle (20/12% buyer's premium) on January 26, this extraordinary painting had been commissioned by Santerre's friend the Abbé de Champeron, and was one of two large-scale portraits showing the Regent with his official mistress. The other, showing the duc in the rather less revealing pose of an armoured general, hangs in the Trianon in Versailles. Quite why an abbé should have commissioned such a portrait remains a mystery - though, as Alan Fausel of Doyle's points out, being an abbé in 18th century France was more a sign of being a younger son than any kind of religious devotion. In more recent times the painting had been in an American private collection for the last 50 years.

The Duc d'Orleans was a notorious libertine who, among other political misjudgments during his Regency, expelled the Old Pretender from France, debarred the French parliament from meddling in political affairs and persecuted the Jansenists. According to Chambers' Biographical Dictionary, the duc died in December 1723 'enfeebled by his debaucheries'.

This happier pre-lapsarian vision of one of the loucher members of the Bourbon dynasty, was bought by the Australian antiques dealer Martyn Cook at a double estimate $240,000 (£135,000). Mr Cook was bidding on behalf of the David Roche Foundation in Adelaide, South Australia, which holds major public exhibitions of 18th and 19th century art.