A RENOIR masterpiece owned by two Scottish scientists has raised nearly £450,000 for a charity.

The oil painting Les Oliviers de Cagnes was completed by the French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1909.

It depicts gnarled olive trees in Renoir's sun-drenched garden at Les Collettes, Cagnes-sur-Mer, on the French Mediterranean coast.

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The work became the highlight of the international art collection belonging to the late Edinburgh professors, molecular biologists Sir Kenneth and Lady Noreen Murray.

They developed the first genetically-engineered vaccine against Hepatitis B that was approved for human use, and together they founded the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh, a charity supporting the doctoral studies of young biologists.

The canvas went under the hammer at Bonhams, London, where it was sold to an anonymous collector for £446,500 - far in excess of its £250,000-£350,000 pre-sale estimate.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Darwin Trust. Sir Kenneth, who died aged 82 in April last year, nearly two years after his wife, was chairman of the trust.

Miranda Grant, managing director of Bonhams Scotland, said: "We are delighted the painting has sold for such a high sum. The proceeds will be going to support a very worthwhile cause."

Renoir was firmly established as one of the leading artists of the Impressionist movement when he painted Les Oliviers de Cagnes.

Struck with rheumatism at the height of his career, he had been advised by his doctor to move to a warmer climate and bought the farm of Les Collettes in 1907.

The Murrays' entire collection has raised about £800,000 in total.

More than 20 other items, including important paintings by Scots artists William McTaggart, Anne Redpath and Joan Eardley, fetched a total of £224,411 at Bonhams' annual Scottish Sale in April.

lA Claude Monet painting of water lilies sold for almost £32 million at auction in London, the second highest price paid for the artist at auction. The auction of 46 modern and Impressionist works brought in just under £122m, Sotheby's said.