PUBLISHED: 19:06 EST, 28 December 2013
It is every Antiques Roadshow fan’s dream – a painting picked up in a shop for just £400 has been identified as a Van Dyck masterpiece.
The piece, worth up to £400,000, will be revealed tonight to be the most valuable painting to feature in the show’s 36-year history.
It was identified after a hunch by presenter Fiona Bruce when the owner of the painting, Father Jamie MacLeod, took it along to be valued at Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire.
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Ms Bruce, who recently made a TV programme about Anthony van Dyck, thought it might be a genuine work by the Flemish master and showed it to an expert. It was later confirmed to be by the leading court painter in 17th Century England.
‘It’s everyone’s dream to spot a hidden masterpiece,’ she said. ‘I’m thrilled that my hunch paid off – to discover a genuine Van Dyck is incredibly exciting.’
The picture, showing a Brussels magistrate, is believed to be a preparatory piece for a larger work painted in 1634.
While the main painting was destroyed in 1695, the smaller single portrait survived and somehow found its way to an antiques shop in Nantwich, Cheshire.
From there it was bought for £400 by Fr MacLeod – mainly because he liked its golden frame.
Antiques Roadshow star spots a Van Dyck worth £400,000
It hung in the hallway of a retreat he runs for the clergy in Derbyshire. At at one stage, the painting fell off its hook on the wall and landed on a CD player, smashing the device.
After art expert Philip Mould inspected it, it underwent a thorough restoration and was officially verified as a genuine Van Dyck by Dr Christopher Brown, who is a world authority on the artist.
Mr Mould said: ‘Discoveries of this type are exceptionally rare. The painting’s emergence from beneath layers of paint was dramatic.
‘It’s been revealed as a thrilling example of Van Dyck’s skills of direct observation that made him so great a portrait painter.’
The artwork will now be sold by Fr MacLeod to pay for the restoration of bells at the chapel within the grounds of the retreat he runs….