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Lely painted Princess Mary, as she was then, as Diana, the goddess of the hunting and the moon. The rich silk gown recalled the dresses worn by the Windsor Beauties that he famously painted in the early to mid-1660s.

While the subject in both paintings places an arrow across her bow, the sitter in this 2ft 11in x 2ft 5in (90 x 73cm) oil on canvas does not have a crescent moon to her forehead, nor is she followed by a greyhound to the lower left of the painting, unlike the larger version now in Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland.

The picture at Halls was felt to be 17th century and by a hand not entirely removed from Lely himself. Catalogued as ‘Circle of Sir Peter Lely’ and estimated at £4000-6000, it found admirers and the gavel finally fell at £22,000 to a buyer on thesaleroom.com.

Market freshness

Elsewhere in the sale, Clynnog by Sir Kyffin Williams (1918-2006) drew decent interest and sold for £13,000.

The 2ft 4in x 3ft (70 x 91cm) signed oil on canvas depicted the village of Clynnog on the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula in Gwynedd with the local church depicted in the centre of the painting. The church was an important site for medieval pilgrims and a structure is recorded on the site from before the Norman conquest (in which it was burnt).

On offer at auction for the first time (the private vendor from mid-Wales had owned it since the 1970s), it had market freshness in its favour and sold within its £10,000-15,000 estimate.