A neglected work of art by the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck found in a barn has been auctioned in New York for 3.1 million dollars. The man who discovered the painting smeared with bird droppings on the back years ago had bought it for 600 euros.
Auction house Sotheby’s now reports the multiple amount – converted 2.85 million euros – for which the Van Dyck has changed hands. The piece is a study that Van Dyck made for his painting St Jerome, which is in the possession of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam.
The work depicts a naked elderly man sitting on a stool. It is one of only two large studies that Van Dyck made of living models. It was probably painted between 1615 and 1618, when Van Dyck was still a young artist working with Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp.
The study has only recently been identified as a work by Van Dyck, Sotheby’s said. The work of art was discovered at the end of the last century in the barn of a farm in the town of Kinderhook, in the US state of New York. According to tradition, the back of the artwork was full of bird droppings.
The man who found it, Albert Roberts, was a passionate collector of “lost” pieces, according to the auction house. He bought the painting, which was in poor condition, for only $600. Not long after, an art historian wrote an article about the study as a ‘surprisingly well-preserved’ work by Van Dyck.
The painting was sold after being presented to Sotheby’s by Roberts’ estate. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Albert B. Roberts Foundation Inc, which the auction house says provides financial support to artists and charities. Works by Agnolo Bronzino, Titian and Melchior de Hondecoeter were also sold in the same auction session.
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