A TINY portrait has sold for almost £30,000 at auction in Dorchester.

The three-and-a-half-inch painting of a Regency lady went for more than three times the estimated price.

The portrait was painted by one of Britain’s most sought-after miniaturists, John Smart (1740-1811).

“Smart miniatures are always exciting when they come on the market as they represent the very best of late 18th century portraiture. But what really made this miniature exceptional was the identity of the sitter and the provenance,” Said Amy Brenan from Duke’s.

The portrait, executed in watercolour and ivory, depicts Miss Annie Chambers, the daughter of Sir Robert Chambers who was Chief Justice of Bengal, India.

He married Frances Wilton, daughter of the sculptor and founding member of The Royal Academy, Joseph Wilton in 1774 and together they had seven children.

Their daughter Annie, depicted in this miniature, was the youngest of the children. She travelled extensively with her family to India but ended up in London where she outlived her entire family. Ironically, despite her beautiful looks in the miniature, Annie is described in the book ‘Sir Robert Chambers: Law, Literature and Empire in the Age of Johnson’ by Thomas Curley, as being ‘… crossed in love…a hopeless invalid and spinster long before her death in 1858.’ The miniature was signed with the initials for J.S and dated 1807, making Annie 19 years-old when she sat for the portrait.

Amy said: “To be able to identify the sitter of a 200 year-old miniature is fantastic, but to find out that this miniature has remained within the same family since its inception is incredible.

“The miniature was consigned by a relative of Annie Chambers – it had passed directly from her on her death in 1858 through branches of the family until the vendor took the decision to part with it.”

This miniature ranks within the top 30 most expensive miniatures by John Smart ever sold at auction. After a battle between two private collectors, one in the room and one on commission, the hammer fell at £24,000 (£29,280 including Buyers premium) to an important gallery in London.