Friday, April 20, 2007

Rediscovered Fra Angelicos

From the Telegraph:
Two Renaissance paintings that were found hanging behind a door in a modest two-bedroom terrace in Oxford fetched a total of £1.7 million at auction yesterday.
Bidders for the altar panels, by the Italian monk Fra Angelico, included the Italian government.
However, the eventual buyer was an anonymous European.
For more than 30 years the panels, measuring 15in x 5in, belonged to Jean Preston, a 77-year-old spinster who travelled everywhere by bus. She was unaware of their significance until shortly before her death last July.
They had a probate value of £400 when Miss Preston's father bequeathed them to her in 1974. He was thought to have paid considerably less for them in America in the 1960s. The discovery solved a 200-year-old mystery. The small works were originally part of the altarpiece of the Church of St Marco in Florence, which was broken up during the Napoleonic wars.
Six of the eight panels had been found. But the location of the remaining two was unknown until their discovery in Oxford.
Miss Preston's house contained other art treasures, including some Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces.
She had been curator of manuscripts at two universities in America, Princeton and Huntingdon. She returned to Britain 10 years ago.
The proceeds of the sale will be divided between Miss Preston's relatives.
Martin Preston, 45, a health worker from Wiltshire, said: "Auntie Jean knew everything there was to know about medieval literature, but not a lot about art."
I'm not sure how plausible that last sentence is.


Michael said...

It's entirely improbable. I blogged about this story at the time of the 'discovery.' The nephew is particularly clueless.

Miss Preston's specialty was manuscript illumination - not literature! She collected forgeries (probably because they were more affordable than the things she really liked).

my post on the topic

--Michael Tinkler
the Cranky Professor

Zadok the Roman said...

One wonders what the inheritance tax implications were in 1974 for undervaluing them so significantly.

Michael said...

Now that's an interesting thought! By not admitting what they might be (which she might not have been certain of anyway) she saved big on taxes and insurance.