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Four livestock paintings from a small collection of 19th century sporting pictures outstripped their guides to contribute £14,000 at Chorley’s (20% buyer’s premium) on July 18.

“They are one of the few rays of sunshine in an otherwise slightly gloomy market for traditional 19th century oil paintings”, said Chorley’s director Thomas Jenner-Fust.

The group, which had been acquired from the trade in the 1970s and ‘80s, was consigned by a local vendor.

Ewe beauty

Top-seller was an oil on board of a prize sheep with a castle in the distance by the little-known livestock painter George B Newmarch (1828-49).

“It was a slightly unusual-looking sheep, the colour of a pig but in sheep form. Some people didn’t like it while other people thought it was an absolutely wonderful example,” said Jenner-Fust.

The 18 x 22in (45 x 56cm) oil on board was pursued by two bidders well above the £2000-3000 guide to £9500, where it was hammered down in the room to a buyer “involved in agriculture”.

The price is among the highest for the artist at auction, according to the Art Sales Index, bettered only by picture of a shepherd and sheep scene which sold at Dreweatts in 2001 for £10,800.

A more established name among the community of naïve-style livestock painters is John Vine of Colchester (1809-67). The artist plied his trade in the Essex market town and beyond, achieving acclaim despite severe hand and arm deformities. In a letter, the Duke of Marlborough expressed his “great surprise at the production of such an excellent picture by one labouring under such disadvantages”.

Portraits of prize pigs by Vine are the most sought-after, with one canvas selling for £14,000 at Bonhams Knightsbridge in January 2014.

Included in the Chorley’s collection was a slightly scuffed 19 x 23in (49 x 59cm) oil on canvas of a longhorn bull. It bettered its £600-800 guide to sell on the internet to a private buyer, again involved in agriculture, for £3000.