Consigned from an unidentified source, the 3ft 1in x 4ft 2in (95cm x 1.28m) oil on canvas shows the Dutch missionary Robert Junius baptising hundreds of natives in Formosa (present-day Taiwan).
Nick Lambourn, head of department, topographical pictures at Christie’s, described the picture as a “very rare early Formosa (Taiwan) subject… of great historical interest to Taiwan and the Asian region in general, as well as of interest to the Dutch”.
Born in Rotterdam in 1606, Junius was a prominent missionary of the Dutch Reformed Church in Formosa between 1629-43.
He established churches in at least 29 towns, baptised nearly 6000 adults and translated prayers and psalms into the Formosa language.
Junius appears twice in the painting dressed in clerical clothing and looking directly at the viewer: first in the throes of Christian teaching from a pulpit in the upper centre, then in the midst of a baptism ceremony lower down the picture.
Dated to 1643 – Junius’ last year on the island before returning home – it seems likely it was commissioned by the missionary to commemorate his time in Formosa.
A saleroom notice on the lot read that two artists appeared to have been involved in its creation: the depictions of Junius identified as by Dutch artist Adriaen Souter (1628-70), based on an engraving in the Rijksmuseum, while an anonymous local Chinese artist painted the Formosa locals.
Estimated at £20,000-30,000, it drew multiple bids before it was eventually knocked down at £195,000.
Rare tsunami view
A rare early depiction of a tsunami in the West Indies drew eager bidding when it was offered in the same Christie’s sale. Catalogued as 19th century Danish School and consigned from the property of a deceased estate, it was knocked down at £45,000, over eight times the top guide.
The oil on canvas, measuring 2ft x 2ft 10in (61 x 86cm), possibly shows the town of Frederickstadt, on the west coast of St Croix, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that struck the Anegada Trough on November 18, 1867.
The 7.5 magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami, the waves of which were recorded across the eastern Caribbean region.