A picture dubbed the most reproduced fine art print in the world sold at auction in London on Wednesday for almost £1 million, a record for South African artist Vladimir Tretchikoff.

"Chinese Girl" was bought by the chairman of Graff Diamonds International, Laurence Graff, for £982,050, Bonhams auctioneers said.

"It's a new world record for Tretchikoff," a Russian emigre who settled in South Africa, Bonhams head of communications and marketing Julian Roup told AFP.

Graff, a British jeweller, will put the iconic painting on public display with the rest of his collection of South African art at the Delaire Graff Estate at Stellenbosch outside Cape Town.

"The picture is going home to Cape Town, where Tretchikoff painted it. It's rather wonderful," Roup said.

"Chinese Girl" is a simple charcoal drawing on a brown canvas illuminated by an iridescent green-blue face, luscious black hair and bright golden tunic.

Bonhams said it is widely believed to be the most reproduced fine art print, noting Tretchikoff himself claimed to have sold half a million large-format reproductions by the end of his career.

Roup said Wednesday's sale price, which includes a buyer's premium, signalled a new recognition for an artist who before his death in 2006 at the age of 92 was often regarded as "kitsch".