Stories about people sitting on heirlooms that could net them thousands have a special place in my heart. There's something so intrinsically alluring about people overlooking a prized valuable for decades and using it as a paperweight. The rise of shows like Pawn Stars indicates that I'm not alone in this perspective. I can't tell you the number of hours I spent as a child rifling through attics and basements trying to find anything remotely valuable. Even though I knew the chances of uncovering a fortune were slim, my grandmother was enough of an art connoisseur to lend credence to my quest. Take the story featured below, for example.
A rare Renaissance painting crafted by a follower of artist Filippino Lippi was recently discovered in a 90-year-old woman's bedroom. After the picture, known as The Depiction of Madonna and Child went through rigorous inspections, the painting sold for over $300,000 or £ 225,000.
As Siobhan Tyrrell, head valuer at Dawsons Auctioneers' London office, combed through the rooms of a north London bungalow, she found herself coming up dry. She simply didn't see anything of much value.
But that changed when she made her way into the bedroom. Hanging above the bed was a stunning painting of the Madonna and child. Tyrrell, who has over 25 years of experience in her field, guessed that it dated to around the 16th century.
The owner of the home, a 90-year-old woman, had left Italy when she was young. Upon her father's death, she inherited the painting, according to a statement from the auction house. It had been in her possession for more than 30 years.
"I was utterly shocked when I saw this early religious painting hanging above her bed," says Tyrrell in the statement. "It literally glowed with quality!"
The oil-on-canvas painting—likely created by a follower of Renaissance artist Filippino Lippi—depicts a pensive Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus as he plays with two angels. The rich red of Mary's gown and the green, billowing folds of the angel's dress in the foreground are contrasted with the background's cloudy countryside.
The painting is certainly not the first to be found hidden in plain sight. In 2010, an abandoned Paris apartment left almost untouched since the start of World War II came to light; the residence was full of art, including a remarkable painting by 19th-century artist Giovanni Boldini. A decade later, in 2020, a Manhattan couple realized that they owned a Jacob Lawrence painting that had been missing for more than 60 years. They'd purchased the artwork, part of Lawrence's Struggle: From the History of the American People series, at a Christmas charity auction in 1960. In 2021, yet another painting from the series resurfaced, this time at a nurse's Upper West Side home.