A painting that was estimated to sell for €500 to €800 at auction has been sold for €120,000.

'Jesus Wearing the Crown of Thorns' is an 19th century oil on copper panel, measuring 34cm x 24cm, contained in a carved, gilded and painted frame.

Adam's Auctioneers on St Stephen's Green held a routine antiques auction yesterday with Lot 160, the small oil painting labeled "Italian School" of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, with an estimate of less than €1,000.

Director of Adam's Auctioneers James O'Halloran said: "I opened the bidding at €500. I knew that there was a certain amount of interest; we had a number of people registered to bid on the phones, and we expected a certain amount of internet bidding as well."

Mr O'Halloran explained that it is not a hugely attractive subject "for most people, you know, it was quite gory."

"But the internet bidder - one of the internet bidders - pounced immediately and put in a bid of €2,000. So at that point then I knew that we were probably going to get some degree of fireworks.

"Certainly [I] didn't expect the bidding to continue to the extent that it did."

This type of sale is referred to as "a sleeper".

"We haven't had one for quite a long time ... in this business you don't know everything and you can't know everything.

"Sometimes things turn up that somebody else sees something in."

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr O'Halloran said that neither of the two final bidders "have seen the picture in the flesh, so to speak."

The painting came from an institution that was clearing out excess objects that they had in their buildings.

Mr O'Halloran said he went to the organisation and had a look "amongst about a hundred things that were in a corridor, I spotted this and two other items.

"And it just stood out because ... the frame is fantastic; a beautiful carved and painted frame.

"There was very strong Italian interest in it, so that's all I can say at this point.

"I don't know where its destination is, ultimately, but it certainly is leaving Ireland", he said.