Family Discovers $850K Painting in Their TV Room
It was a genuine 17th-century work.
A French family was surprised to learn that a painting hanging in their TV room, presumed to be a fake for generations, was a genuine 17th-century work that ended up fetching $850,000 at auction last month. The family had invited an appraiser to look at several items in their home and assess their worth for auction. The appraiser discovered the painting in a dim TV room, partly hidden behind an open door. Read on to find out what happened next.
"A Bit of a Surprise"
"I arrived in a small television room which was not very well lit. I started making my estimates in the living room and turning around behind the door, there were two thirds of the painting visible," Malo de Lussac of the auctioneers Daguerre Val de Loire, told the Associated Press. "And that's when in fact I discovered the painting. It was a bit of a surprise." The oil painting "The Village Lawyer" depicts a busy legal office in a rural community. It was created by Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger between 1615 and 1617. At 44 by 72 ½ inches, it's one of Brueghel's two largest pieces.
"Biggest Moment" of Appraiser's Career
The family of the owners, who want to remain anonymous, acquired the painting in 1900. They had always called it "The Brueghel," thinking it was fake. "The family ancestors bought the painting as an original, but over the years the real story was completely lost orally … Maybe the family was not necessarily interested in this painting," de Lussac told the AP. "Yes, they called it the Brueghel, but they had no idea it actually was!" The discovery "was the biggest moment of my career. But of course I was cautious. It is after all rather rare to find a Brueghel hanging in a television room," de Lussac said.
Expert Verified Authenticity
De Lussac had a hunch that it was a genuine Bruegel because of the work's brushstrokes, colors, and canvas material. "My heart was beating so hard," he told the Washington Post. The owners were skeptical but allowed de Lussac send the painting to a Bruegel expert in Germany. In December, they were notified it was the real thing.
About the Artist
The painting depicts villagers lining up to see the lawyer, bringing gifts of eggs and birds in the hope of making a good impression. The painting has also been called "The Tax Collector's Office" and "Payment of the Yearly Dues," as it's often interpreted to be a depiction of the villagers paying their annual taxes. During Brughel's lifetime, he made 20 copies of the painting in different formats. Born in Brussels around 1564, Bruegel was the eldest son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, one of the most prominent artists of the Flemish Renaissance.
Social Media Reacts
"What a fantastic surprise for the family," wrote one commenter on the Washington Post story. "I hope the proceeds from the sell of the painting serve them well." "Somewhere along the family story someone forgot to mention 'Oh, by the way, that's not a copy'? Glad it got discovered while still in the same family," said another. "I thought this kind of thing only happened on Antiques Roadshow," said another. "I wonder if my painting of Trump as Rambo on black velvet will be worth much in a few years?"