‘It Was Just Flabbergasting’: A $321,000 Renaissance Masterwork Was Discovered Hanging (Off-Kilter) Above Nonagenarian’s Bed
A major lost painting by a follower of the Italian Renaissance painter Filippino Lippi hidden in plain sight in a London bungalow has sold for £255,000 ($321,000) at Dawsons Auctioneers in London.
The painting belonged to a woman in her 90s who moved to a nursing home last year. Her family enlisted Dawsons to evaluate the home and its contents as they began the process of selling the property to help cover her medical care.
“Their expectations were initially very low,” Siobhan Tyrrell, the auction house’s head of valuations and a specialist on Antiques Roadshow, said in a video. “The last room that I went to was her bedroom and I was amazed to see this beautiful 16th-century religious painting… It was just flabbergasting.”
“It’s an absolute godsend and will really change her life,” Tyrrell added.
The woman, who reportedly suffers from dementia, was born in Italy and moved to the U.K. in her youth. She inherited the work from her father at the time of his death 30 years ago, but was unaware of its value and historical importance.
Lippi was the illegitimate child of a nun, Lucrezia Buti, and a priest, the painter Fra Filippo Lippi. The elder Lippi, renowned for his elegant Madonna paintings, taught the Renaissance great Sandro Botticelli, who in turn taught Filippino Lippi.
Though the auction house has attributed the work to one of Lippi’s followers, the impressive hammer price suggests that some bidders suspect it is by the hand of the artist himself. According to the Artnet Price Database, only five Lippi paintings have achieved a better auction result, with a record price of $2.3 million set at Christie’s New York in 2005.
Titled The Depiction of the Madonna and Child, the rediscovered oil painting hung above the women’s bed, off kilter.
“Most people watch programs like Antiques Roadshow to see rare finds being discovered and we all secretly hope to find something lurking in our own attics,” Aubrey Dawson, managing director at Dawsons, told the Independent. “The discovery of this painting was one of those moments and the fact the owner and her family had no idea of its value made it all the more enjoyable for everyone concerned.”
It was undoubtedly the star of Dawsons’ fine art and antiques sale, attracting interest from no less than 20 bidders.
“We knew it would do well.” auctioneer Peter Mason added, “but the final hammer price exceeded our expectations.”
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