Painting That Hung in Family's Home for Generations Is Masterpiece Worth Millions

Van Dyck Masterpiece
Self-portrait by Sir Anthony Van Dyck.Getty

The painting hung for generations in the family's living room. They had no idea it was a masterpiece painted by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, one of the most important artists of the 17th century.

A family in southern Spain had long admired a painting that hung in their living room for generations. But they didn't know it was actually a masterpiece worth millions, painted by the revered Sir Anthony Van Dyck, one of the most important artists of the 17th century.

“They saw it as something normal, a part of their daily lives,” the family's lawyer, Luis Baena, told Olive Press, an English-language news site for expats in Spain.

"The Presentation of the Baby Jesus to Saint Barbara" is now in the safe deposit box of an insurance company. It has been authenticated by a Madrid art firm and has been carefully restored.

The family is talking with the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, where the family lives. The family wishes to remain anonymous and has not released a photo of the painting.

A number of auction houses have reached out to the family, attorney Baena told El Pais. But the owners "have a special interest in it staying Seville," the lawyer said.

The value of Van Dyck paintings has a wide range. The Baroque artist revolutionized portrait painting in England, changing royal paintings from stiff and stern affairs to intimate, relaxed portraits. The Flemish painter was an assistant to Peter Paul Rubens and then became independently famous for his depictions King Charles I and his family.

In 2009, Van Dyck's last self-portrait fetched $13.2 million at auction, according to Artnet. It now belongs to London's National Portrait Gallery. Earlier this year, an oil sketch by Van Dyck sold for $3.1 million at a Sotheby's auction in New York.

The canvas had been found in a shed in upstate New York, with its back covered in bird poop. deThe sketch was a prototype for Van Dyck's Saint Jerome, which hangs in a museum in Rotterdam.

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