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'Adoration of the Magi', an oil and mother-of-pearl on panel – £17,000 at Parker Fine Art.

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The depiction of the Adoration of the Magi was produced in an unusual medium: oil and mother-of-pearl on panel. Measuring 23½in x 2ft 7in (60 x 79cm), it came from a London collector and was catalogued as ‘18th Century Dutch School’.

It was estimated at £300-500 at the auction in Farnham, Surrey, on July 8.

A number of parties, however, seemingly recognised not only the compositional similarities to one of Rubens’ treatments of the Adoration but also identified the mixed-media technique as enconchado painting.

Combining fine and decorative art, this process was pioneered by Mexican artisans in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

It involved inserting small fragments of iridescent shell or mother-of-pearl into a panel and then painting the composition on top in opaque and translucent paints – creating an other-worldly shimmering effect, especially when viewed under candlelight.

An example like this may well have been based on an engraving that would have been circulated by religious orders in Mexico.

While not many enconchado works survive – only 200 remain today by one estimate – a few have been sold over the years by Old Master dealers, including some to American museums.

Several also appeared at auction, such as Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) that made $221,000 at Christie’s New York in November 2014.

While this example in Farnham may not quite have been of the same quality and had a number of condition issues, it attracted determined interest from two international online bidders and made £17,000.