Making a record for an Aubrey Beardsley drawing, this illustration for Oscar Wilde's Salome made $180,000 at Skinner's sale in Boston.

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Both were in fact original illustrations for Oscar Wilde's controversial play Salome: A Tragedy in One Act, and it was thought they were purchased by the owner's grandfather.

They were spotted during a routine valuation not far outside the East Coast city by the director of books and manuscripts at auctioneers Skinner's, Stuart Whitehurst.

Originally written in French, the first English edition of Salome was published in 1894 in London by Elkin Mathews and John Lane and included the Beardsley illustrations.

While nine of the 13 original drawings have ended up in Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum, the other three remained untraced.

After their rediscovery, these two were offered at Skinner's November 16 sale in Boston, both with $15,000-20,000 estimates. While A Platonic Lament made $120,000, The Climax made an auction record for a Beardsley drawing, selling at $180,000 (plus 18.5 per cent buyer's premium).

The final missing illustration is Enter Herodias.

By Alex Capon