Art: Bought for just $600: Bird droppings-covered painting set to fetch millions at auction

The New York art collector Albert B.

Art: Bought for just $600: Bird droppings-covered painting set to fetch millions at auction

The New York art collector Albert B. Roberts is obviously not a braggart: where most people would only have recognized a grossly unclean picture, Roberts had the right nose in 2002. In front of him he saw an oil painting that was extensively soiled with bird droppings and immediately suspected: it must be an original by the Dutch artist Anthony van Dyck.

Since nobody else knew anything about the famous author of the picture, the find was dirt cheap for Roberts, he only had to pay 600 dollars to take the dirty picture home with him. It was there for a long time. It wasn't until 2019 that Roberts finally decided to get to the bottom of his theory about Anthony van Dyck. He commissioned the art expert Susan Barnes to examine the picture - and her finding was extremely gratifying: she confirmed that it was in fact a painting by van Dyck and even called it "amazingly well preserved" despite the dirt.

Barnes was delighted with the rediscovery of the artwork: it was an "impressive and important find that helps us learn more about the artist's working methods as a young man". It is probably a study for van Dyck's portrait of Saint Jerome (1618-20), which is currently hanging in the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam.

Despite the gratifying expertise, Roberts kept the painting, which had increased in value significantly, until his death in 2021. However, it is now owned by the noble auction house Sotheby's - and there it could soon go to a new owner for a very large sum. It is to be auctioned off in the so-called "Masters Week" by the end of January. Experts expect proceeds of around 3 million dollars.

What: Artnet

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