A Banksy original offering an “image of hope” during the pandemic has sold for a record £16.8m, auction house Christie’s has said – with the proceeds going to health charities.

The anonymous artist’s Game Changer work appeared at Southampton Hospital as a thank you to staff during the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis.

While the reproduction remains at the hospital, Banksy‘s original canvas has now been sold to raise money for health organisations and charities.

Game Changer depicts a young boy playing with superhero dolls – a masked nurse wearing a cape, while Batman and Spiderman are discarded in a bin.

It sold on Tuesday for much higher than the estimated £2.5m to £3.5m, with the £16.8m a world auction record for a Banksy, according to Christie’s. Devolved Parliament, a piece depicting a House of Commons populated by chimpanzees, sold for £9.8m at auction in 2019.

Christie’s said the Game Changer artwork “offers an image of hope” and represents a “personal tribute to those who continue to turn the tide of the pandemic”.

Spokeswoman Katharine Arnold said: “Banksy is an extraordinary artist who is a constant barometer of nationwide sentiment.

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“With the perfect image of a little boy playing with his superhero doll, a nurse sporting the international Red Cross, he perfectly captured the essence of this moment in time.

“As we have turned our focus towards our families and those we love, we express our gratitude to the people who continue to fight on the frontline against COVID-19.”

When the artwork first appeared at Southampton Hospital, it was accompanied by a note which read: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.”

David French, interim chief executive officer at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust, said the “incredible gift” would help support staff “as they heal and recover” from the last 12 months.

“As a charitable gift it ensures our staff have a say in how money is spent to benefit them, our patients and our community and is a fantastic way to thank and reward them for the sacrifices they’ve made,” he said.

Game Changer was not Banksy’s only work reflecting the pandemic.

In the summer, the artist painted some trademark rats wearing face coverings on a tube train – which were later scrubbed off by cleaners who did not realise their significance.

Banksy also used the rats to present his own image of working from home.