Wednesday 22 October 2014

Priest's bargain buy turns out to be lost masterpiece

Alice Philipson

Published 29/12/2013 | 02:30

Fiona Bruce and Canon Jamie MacLeod with the Van Dyck painting on Antiques Roadshow.

A painting that hung on the wall of a priest's home for more than a decade after he bought it for about €500 at an antiques shop has been identified as a van Dyck portrait worth a thousand times as much.

The work, which had previously been dismissed as a copy, was valued at €500,000 after its owner brought it into the Antiques Roadshow and is the most valuable painting to be identified in the 36-year history of the programme.

Canon Jamie MacLeod, who took the painting along to a roadshow in Newstead Abbey, near Nottingham, now plans to sell it to buy new church bells.

He bought the portrait from a Cheshire antiques shop -- which has since closed -- over 12 years ago.

The work was identified after the show's host, Fiona Bruce, who was making a show about the artist with expert Philip Mould, saw the painting and wondered whether it was genuine.

Mr Mould agreed to take a look at it and after weeks of painstaking cleaning and the removal of a top coat of 18th century paint, the painting was verified by Dr Christopher Brown, one of the world's leading authorities on van Dyck.

Father MacLeod, who helps to run a retreat house in the Peak District, said: "It's been an emotional experience and it's such great news.

"It's wonderful that new church bells hopefully will be pealing out to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War in 2018."

Bruce said: "It's everyone's dream to spot a hidden masterpiece, I'm thrilled that my hunch paid off. To discover a genuine van Dyck is incredibly exciting. I'm so pleased for Fr MacLeod."

The Flemish artist became the leading court painter in England under Charles I and his works hang in Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery of Ireland and in other museums and galleries around the world.

A self-portrait recently sold for £12.5m (€15m), prompting a fundraising campaign to try to save the painting for the nation.

The work discovered on the show is a portrait of a magistrate of Brussels.

It is believed to have been painted as part of the artist's preparation for a 1634 work showing seven magistrates, which was eventually destroyed in a French attack on Brussels in 1695.

"Discoveries of this type are exceptionally rare," said Mr Mould. "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."

Antiques Roadshow 7pm, BBC One

Irish Independent

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