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A never-before-seen painting of the founding father of Auckland, Sir John Logan Campbell, has sold for a record $505,000 at auction tonight.
The large oil painting depicts an elderly Sir John at home at Kilbryde, now the site of the Parnell Rose Gardens. His window overlooks North Head and Rangitoto Island.
The artwork by Louis John Steele is thought to have been painted around 1903 but has never appeared in public till it went up for sale at the International Art Centre in Parnell.
The painting was expected to go for between $300,000 and $500,000 at auction. An Auckland buyer eventually paid $505,000, the highest-ever price for a Steele painting.
Centre director Richard Thomson said there was excitement in the room as the bidding war narrowed down to two bidders, who were upping their offers by $5000 at a time.
Both the sellers and the new owner were thrilled with the outcome, he said.
Mr Thomson called the painting a "national treasure".
"The location of the painting has been a mystery for more than half a century," Mr Thompson said.
"No one knew where it was or even if it still existed so we were astonished and incredibly excited when a family member contacted us to sell it."
Steele was one of the biggest influences in New Zealand art. One of his early pupils was Charles Frederick Goldie, the most significant painter of Maori subjects in art history.
Two Goldie paintings were also being auctioned tonight. Time Tells - Mere Werohia was expected to go for around $500,000, while Weary with Age - Kapi Kapi aged 102 years was expected to reach $300,000.