AUCTIONEERS found a masterpiece worth £700,000 hanging on the back of a door in the home of a family who were convinced it was a fake.
The rare work of art by 17th-century artist Pieter Brueghel the Younger spent years hidden on an estate in northern France.
The ‘extraordinary’ painting of L’Avocat du village (The Village Lawyer) had been in the family since 1900 – but the dubious brood believed it was a fake.
They continued to pass it on from one generation to the next, but kept it a secret – from houseguests and the art world.
The painting was eventually relegated behind a door in her lounge and considered “just a bit of decoration” until an expert caught a glimpse of it.
Malo de Lussac visited the house after the family requested an appraisal visit to the Daguerre Val de Loire auction house.
He was stunned when he stumbled upon the elusive painting, covered in dust and hidden in the “TV room”.
The work, which is 112cm high and 184cm wide and has a value of up to £713,000, is believed to have been painted between 1615 and 1617.
It is one of Brueghel’s best-known pieces and contains a theme that he reproduced up to 90 times.
De Lussac said: “I started appreciating this space and when I turned around I saw this painting.
“It was a very good surprise for me. It was known in the family as ‘Brueghel’ but they had no idea it was a real one.
“They thought it was a copy; just a bit of decoration that wasn’t worth much.”
He said it only occurred to the family after the auctioneers sent it to Germany for expert inspection, which confirmed it was a genuine Brueghel.
De Lussac continued: “They understood the importance of their possessions and asked us to take a picture of them in front of the painting they had lived with all these years.
“It was both funny and touching.”
The appraiser said he believed the artwork was purchased as genuine but that for several generations the family believed it to be a fake.
He added: “And that’s the incredible thing. We give them that authenticity back by saying, ‘In fact, your artwork is real’.
“It’s one of those unique finds that you make once in a career.
“It is a very unusual painting in terms of size and the fact that it is in exceptional condition.”
It was auctioned in Paris on Monday, with experts expecting it to fetch between £527,561 and £703,414.
Pieter Bruegel the Younger, born in Brussels, was the eldest son of the 16th-century Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
After his father died when he was five, he and his younger brother, Jan Brueghel the Elder, followed in his footsteps to become artists.
Often copying his father’s works for his paintings, Brueghel preferred landscapes, religious subjects, village scenes and flowers.
The Village Lawyer features a disorderly scene in which villagers line up in the Lawyers’ Chambers while many snag gifts, including eggs and poultry.
He reproduced the painting nearly 100 times, with a few signed and dated versions unearthed over the years.
An authentic version of the painting from around 1617 already hangs in the Louvre.
Despite his popularity, Breughel was probably quite poor and could not benefit from the prices his work fetches today.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/7741382/rare-painting-hidden-behind-door-family-thought-fake/ I’ve found a £700,000 painting hidden behind a door after family dismissed it as a fake – could you have a hidden masterpiece?