The oil on canvas piece, depicting Mary holding Jesus surrounded by angels, was found among the belongings of a 90-year-old who had been moved into a nursing home with dementia. Siobhan Tyrrell – the expert valuer of Antiques Roadshow fame who made the amazing find – said it had been “just flabbergasting” to find the gem in a bungalow in north London.
She explained she had been invited to value the contents of the property by the holder of the owner’s power of attorney.
Their expectations were “initially very low”, Ms Tyrrell said, and she found most of the home’s contents were “relatively low value”.
However, she was “utterly shocked” when she saw the early religious painting by Filippino Lippi, the illegitimate son of another painter and student of Botticelli, the latter of whom painted the walls of the Sistine Chapel.
Ms Tyrrell commented: “It literally glowed with quality! I’m not a painting specialist, however as a general valuer with over 25 years’ experience, I recognised that it was an exceptional work from the 16th century.
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Thanks to the massive price tag the auctioneers were able to attract, the family “will not have to worry” about her ongoing care.
Ms Tyrrell said: “The proceeds of this amazing find mean that actually she can continue to have the vital nursing care that she can and live in comfort […and] will change her life.”
The auction house added: “Fittingly, given the subject matter of the painting itself, this wonderful picture has really turned out to be a godsend to them all.”