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John Boultbee (1753-1812), however, had been trained at the Royal Academy School by Sir Joshua Reynolds and found an admirer and collector in George III who commissioned several equestrian portraits and assigned him a residence in Windsor Park.

Like many artists who painted livestock portraits, Boultbee’s works have a naive charm that accounts for much of their popularity today. Among the best known are his depictions of Leicestershire farmer Robert Bakewell’s famous herd of longhorn cattle and the colossal Durham Ox.

Longhorn highlight

Attractively pitched at £5000-8000, two 17 x 23in (44 x 59cm) companion portraits of a longhorn bull and cow standing in classical landscapes generated stiff competition at Andrew Smith & Son (21% buyer’s premium) of Winchester on September 10.

They had remained untouched since being purchased for £420 by the vendor at Christie’s in 1975, though both had quite extensive condition issues and just one oil was signed.

Drawing bids from the internet, the phones and via commission, the duo was eventually knocked down to an international buyer via the web for £19,500.

Auction house director Gary Loftus described them as “particularly good studies” in the naive style by an artist that “evidently assisted with their appeal”.