Thursday 25th August 2022 - Cara Bentham
An incredible sale for art by an unknown artist
A late Renaissance style oil painting of the Madonna and child was expected to fetch between £50 and £80 when it went under the hammer at TW Gaze’s Diss Auction Rooms in Norfolk last week. However, amid speculation the painting could be the work of an ‘Italian master’, it attracted over 250 bids and, after a fierce bidding war, the hammer came down at a staggering £160,000.
The auction catalogue had the piece described as a 19th century oil on canvas depicting mother and child, by an unknown artist. According to the auction house, the unsuspecting owner of the painting had no idea it would attract so much interest and sell for such a high price following the modest estimate.
Auction goers watched in amazement as the price kept rising into the tens of thousands, fuelled by a flurry of international phone and internet bids for the piece. Once auctioneer’s fees have been added, the unknown buyer will face a bill of around £200,000.
One of our Easy Live Auction bidders narrowly missed out on owning the piece, having helped to drive the price to such heights by underbidding the winner all the way to the end.
Antiques enthusiast Ian Honeyman was in the auction room on the day and participated in the early bidding. He told ITV News that he suspected the piece might have been painted by an Italian master and could potentially be worth even more than it sold for once it has been restored.
He said, “I saw this painting and thought that it looked really interesting: it's got a good age to it, it's well painted, good subject matter - the Madonna and child - so I thought I'd try to buy it for its £50-80 estimate. Like a lot of people, I popped down and was very, very surprised when the prices started to get into the tens of thousands.”
Mr Honeyman speculated that the seller would be very excited when they heard the news, probably having had the painting under their bed for some years without realising its value. He wondered whether we might see it resurface in some years at a prestigious auction house in London, attracting bids even greater than those seen this time around – perhaps even up to a million pounds or more. Time will tell.
Despite the level of interest in the piece on the day, it remains unknown who the actual artist of the painting is or even who it might be suspected to be. Any ideas?