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March 1, 2019

Found in an attic, oh my.

I found it in an attic...never a basement, never on the wall, never in granny's bedroom.  The number of forgotten masterpieces purportedly found under the rooftops of houses, many of them French for some reason, sometime can seem too good to be true.  Not to mention an almost tritely predictable location.   

I've been in my parents attics lots of times but all I ever find is old Christmas ornaments, not priceless, formally unknown masterpieces. 

Here are some of the fortunes found (and not) in attics recently:

A masterpiece by Giambattista Tiepolo's "The Portrait of a lady as Flora" was reportedly found in the attic of a French château.  This artwork sold in 2008 via Christie's for £2.8 million. 

In 2010 family members found a Chinese 18th Century Qianlong porcelain Fish Vase, clearing out the attic of their uncle/brother's modest home in Pinner, a town in the Borough of Harrow, in northwest London shortly after he recently died.  The 18th century vase later sold at Bainbridges auction for a mind boggling £53.1 million.  

In 2013, after considerable doubt, then Van Gogh museum director Axel Rüger announced that the 1988 "Sunset at Montmajour" which had been “rediscovered” after sitting in a Norwegian attic,  was authentic.

In 2013 a tiny figurine, made by Faberge, depicting a known personal bodyguard to the family of Russian Czar Nicholas II was found in an upstate New York attic when relatives cleaned out the space following the death of a relative.  The jaunty soldier sold for $5.2 million.  

The artwork " Poise (1916), painted by Scottish Colorist John Duncan Fergusson was rediscovered in another French attic, this time in Giverny.  It was sold in November 2014 for £638,500.

In 2015,  a Scotsman, Dominic Currie told the world he was cleaning out old belongings that once belonged to his deceased mother, and purportedly found a work by the Cubist artist Pablo Picasso rolled up in an old suitcase he had stored in his attic in 2000, apparently too distraught to go through her things at the time of his mum's passing.  The artwork later turned out to be a hoax, though Currie claims that his ruse was simply a piece of performance art, done to raise awareness of the plight of struggling artists like himself.

In April of 2016, in still yet another French attic, near Toulouse, apparently produced a rare painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.  This artwork depicts the violent biblical scene of "Judith Beheading Holofernes" which, if it is to be believed, dates back to around 1600.  It will go under the hammer in Toulouse on June 27 this year and could fetch as much as $171 million.

In 2018 a second set of siblings cleaning out their parents attic in France found dozens of pieces of Chinoiserie.  One of them was an Imperial 18th-century ‘Yangcai’ Famille-Rose porcelain vase, found in a shoebox, created during the reign of Qianlong, the fourth emperor in the Qing dynasty.  It sold for 16.2 million euros via Sotheby's later that same year. 

Perhaps it's time to tidy up those dusty attic corners.

By:  Lynda Albertson