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LONDON (Reuters) - A watercolor by British artist JMW Turner not seen in public for more than a century and listed as lost has been bought by an American collector for 2.9 million pounds ($5.9 million), nearly double the pre-auction estimate.
The atmospheric "Bamborough Castle" was sold late on Wednesday after a telephone bidding battle between four would-be buyers at Sotheby's Old Master sale.
Described by the Graphic Society in 1837, shortly after it was painted, as "one of the finest watercolor drawings in the world," the picture had not been on the open market since 1872 when it went for a then record of 3,309 pounds.
About 18 years later it passed privately into the hands of the American Vanderbilt dynasty and disappeared from public view, being listed in a 1979 catalogue as "untraced."
The painting depicts the castle high on a cliff on the northeastern English coast during a storm which has driven a ship on to the rocks.
In the picture, a flare has been fired and people are gathered at the water's edge preparing to try to rescue the sailors seen rowing away from the stricken vessel.
The castle was known as a place of refuge on the British coast for sailors in distress during storms.
It had rooms set aside for rescued sailors, as well as a marine rescue party that patrolled a long stretch of the coast.
Reporting by Jeremy Lovell; Editing by Andrew Dobbie