William Turner, (1775-1851), "Rome, from Mount Aventine", 1835. Photo: Sotheby's William Turner, (1775-1851), "Rome, from Mount Aventine", 1835. Photo: Sotheby's

The painting, by the great British artist William Turner (1775-1851), set a record price of $1.000 the last time it sold at auction in 1878. Bought by Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery who later became the Prime Minister of Great Britain it has since remained in the same family.

The oil painting took seven years to paint and was commissioned by Turner's patron Hugh Munro of Novar in 1828. When exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836 The Morning Post wrote: "This is one of those amazing pictures by which Mr Turner dazzles the imagination and confounds all criticism: it is beyond praise".

Alex Bell, joint international head and co-chairman of Sotheby's Old Master Paintings Department, estimates that there are "fewer than ten major Turners in private hands known today."  It is rare that a Turner hits the auction circuit since most of his paintings are held in public collections throughout the UK as the artist bequeathed his collection to the nation upon his death.

The only comparable work, commissioned by the same patron, was acquired by the Getty Museum from Sotheby's in July 2010 for $47.8 million.

The painting, considered an extraordinary example of the painter's work, is in mint condition. Experts are awestruck by the visible drips of paint on its sides and the hairs from Turner's brush trapped in the canvas.

A spokesman for the Rosebery family said: "During the first hundred years we owned this picture, it hung alongside its sister picture of Modern Rome in pride of place in our homes - first in London and later at Mentmore in Buckinghamshire. For the last forty years or so, the painting has been on loan to major museums, and we have drawn much pleasure from knowing that so many people have had the opportunity to see and enjoy it."
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