A Pierneef painting set a new record price for South African art at an auction in London on Wednesday when it went for over £800,000, the auctioneers, Bonhams, said.

The painting, ‘The Baobab Tree’ went for £826,400, the equivalent of R11.8 million.

Bonhams spokesman Julian Roup said the pre-sale estimate had been £300,000.

According to Bonhams, the previous record for a South African painting of about £500,000 was held by an Irma Stern painting.

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef died in 1957, and according to Bonhams, probably painted The Baobab Tree in 1934.

Pierneef had presented the work to the South African high commissioner to Britain in the 1930s, Charles te Water, as a gift after Te Water visited Pierneef’s studio, admired the then-unfinished picture and urged him to complete it.

It was shown at London’s Tate Gallery in an exhibition of South African art in 1948. Roup told Sapa that the painting was sold by a South African expatriate couple who had been living in the United States since the 1970s.

He said the wife, who attended the sale, had been so shocked at the price it achieved that she almost collapsed.

He said Bonhams could not reveal the identity of the buyer, but he understood it was a South African individual.