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Man found rare painting stained with bird droppings. It was sold for $3 million

Forgotten with time, how a 17th century piece was brought back into art discussions.

January 30, 2023 / 12:32 PM IST
Anthony van Dyck study for

Anthony van Dyck study for "St Jerome". (Image credit: Sotheby's)

A rare 17th century art piece, rediscovered in a farm shed in a neglected condition, has fetched over $3 million at a recent Sotheby's auction.

The painting, of an old man seated on a stool, belongs to the Belgian painter Anthony van Dyck. It was a figure study for his famous painting "St Jerome".

The piece is prized since it is only one of the two large studies that the painter created from live models.

Van Dyck likely crafted the piece between 1615 and 1618. It languished in a farm, neglected and stained with bird droppings, till it was rediscovered in New York the late 20th century.

Auction house Sotheby's told CNN that the piece was found by a fervent art collector named Albert B. Roberts.

Especially fond of collecting neglected pieces, Roberts bought the painting for $600. He did not know who the artist was.

It was shortly after his purchase that art historian  Susan J. Barnes identified it as van Dyck's work.

Roberts' estate handed over the work to Sotheby's, that auctioned it earlier this month. They expected it to sell for $2,000,000 to $ 3,000,000.

It was eventually auctioned for $3,075,000.

Describing the painting, Sotheby's said it showcased van Dyck's efforts to understand human anatomy and "convincingly render it in space".

"Van Dyck employed this male model on more than one occasion; he also rendered a double study of this figure's head, which served as the basis for several details in other history paintings," the auction house said.

The work also seems to have stood the test of time

“The painting is surprisingly well preserved and the delicate half-tones in the arms and legs are intact," Barnes, the art historian who identified it, wrote.

first published: Jan 29, 2023 05:03 pm