Rare 15th century altarpiece saved from skip and sells for €40,000
A RARE 15th-century Flemish altarpiece mistaken for an old press and almost thrown into a skip has sold tonight at auction for €40,000 - significantly less than the estimate of €80,000 to €120,000.
The triptych is now returning 'home' to the Low Countries after being bought by a Belgian art trader who had travelled over to Durrow, Co Laois especially for the sale at Sheppards auction house.
The discovery of the altar piece was made over two years ago by Fr John O’Reilly, the parish priest of Piercetown, a village between Wexford town and Rosslare.
At the auction tonight, Fr O'Reilly said the price achieved was "marvellous" - considering the piece could easily have ended up in a skip.
The parish council will now decide how the money is to be spent, he said.
The mystery remains over how the important work of ‘Flemish Primitive’ art created during the Northern Renaissance more than 500 years ago ended up in Wexford in the first place – let alone in a disused garage in a parochial house.
The item came to light when an outbuilding in the parochial house’s ground was being cleared, with Fr O’Reilly planning to convert the disused garage into a parochial office.
Workmen putting material into a skip came across what looked like “an old press or bathroom cabinet”.
The priest “told the lads to leave it to one side”.
Months later, he “took a closer look before throwing it out”. The sun shone on it and he saw a face.
He noticed paintings on the doors of the cabinet and “discovered a face among all the grime”, wondering: “Have I got another Caravaggio?”
He then “opened the doors and discovered the statues”.
The altarpiece is a triptych with painted door panels that open to reveal a central tableau of sculpted carvings depicting the lamentation of Christ.