Sir John Lavery Played! tennis painting sold at auction

Image caption, The painting is one of the earliest depictions of a game of tennis

A painting by Belfast-born artist Sir John Lavery has been auctioned for £657,250.

The oil painting, entitled Played!! is one of the earliest known depictions of a game of tennis, dating from 1885.

The painting, which is signed and dated by Sir John, captures the movement and drama of an exciting new sport, as a young woman lunges to return serve.

The painting was sold at an auction of British and Irish art at Christie's in London.

Lawn tennis was invented by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield in 1874, and quickly gained popularity amongst the upper classes in Britain.

In the early 1880s, Sir John returned from Paris, where he was studying at the prestigious Academie Julian, and was quickly taken by the game.

In the summer of 1885, he visited the home of a friend in the suburbs of Glasgow, where a tennis court had been set up.

The painting was inspired by this visit, and marked a new direction for Sir John, who was better known for his portraits and as a society painter.

His choice of subject and naturalistic portrayal were considered extremely avant-garde at the time.

Lavery painted one other version of the same scene: a watercolour entitled A Rally, which is in the Glasgow Museum's collection.