Lost painting described as one of the 'best pictures ever seen on Antiques Roadshow'
It was a wedding present lovingly created for a close friend and hidden away from the world for decades.
But now the lost work of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, one of the foremost artists of the Victorian period, has emerged after it was brought forward by the great-great-grandson of the man for whom it was made.
The painting is a portrait of the etcher Leopold Löwenstam, a friend and colleague of the great artist.
It was gifted to Löwenstam and his wife Alice Search, who was the nanny of Alma-Tadema’s daughters, on their wedding day in 1883.
The portrait has been described by the Antiques Roadshow’s pictures expert as one of the “best pictures we have ever seen on the Roadshow in its entire history”, and is believed to have received one of the show’s highest valuations.
“Alma-Tadema was a Victorian Neoclassical painter, whose paintings inspired Cecil B DeMille [the American film-maker] - he is the most valuable Victorian artist today,” said Rupert Maas.
The Dutch painter moved to England in 1870, around the same time as Löwenstam. Famed for his paintings of classical Greece and ancient Rome, he was one of the most iconic artists of his era.
“Tadema holds the record for a Victorian painting at $36 million (£28m) for an enormous picture sold in New York a few years ago,” Mr Maas added.
“This one doesn’t quite reach that because it’s not of a Neoclassical subject and it’s not huge. But it is very, very good, and shows another, more painterly side of his work than the girls in togas sitting on marble benches that he is known for.
“I think this might be one of the best pictures we have ever seen on the Roadshow in its entire history. There are hardly any portraits of engravers at work at all, and this is one of the most telling and beautiful.”
The portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1884, and went on display again in Liverpool in 1913.
It is not believed to have been since then. But now one of Löwenstam’s descendants, who did not want to be named, has brought the portrait back into the public eye.
“My great-great grandfather and the artist were close family friends and my great-great grandmother was the governess of Tadema’s children,” said the owner.
Löwenstam and Alma-Tadema began working together after they both moved to London, and Löwenstam’s reproduction prints of the artist’s masterpieces are credited with helping to make Alma-Tadema famous.
Having been restored, the painting will now be included in the upcoming touring exhibition of Alma-Tadema’s work.
The exhibition, which has been organised by the Dutch Museum of Friesland, begins in the Netherlands next month and will be coming to London’s Leighton House Museum in the autumn of 2017.
Daniel Robbins, the senior curator of Leighton House, told the Telegraph: “Alma-Tadema is someone the public gets. People warm to his pictures and find them fascinating.
“He is absolutely one of the foremost artists of the Victorian period. His pictures endure in terms of public recognition, appreciation and enjoyment of them.”
Mr Maas added: “The news of the discovery of this lost important work has stunned the art world and I am delighted people will get the chance to see it restored and alongside other great works.”