A painting bought by a Whaley Bridge priest for £400 is expected to sell for up to £500,000 next month.
The Van Dyck painting was purchased by Father Jamie MacLeod from an antiques shop in Cheshire 12 years ago. And after taking it to the Antiques Roadshow in the summer of 2012, he discovered it was a genuine Sir Anthony Van Dyck painting, worth over a thousand times what he paid for it.
The painting will be offered for sale by leading auction house Christie’s at their Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale in London on July 8.
The painting is estimated to be worth between £300,000 and £500,000.
Proceeds of the sale will be used to purchase new church bells for Whaley Hall Ecumenical Retreat to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
Father Jamie said: “It has been a blessing to own this magnificent portrait which has given me great pleasure over the years. I will be sad to part with it but the proceeds will be put to excellent use.”
The painting is a preparatory sketch for Van Dyck’s full-length group portrait of The Magistrates of Brussels, which was painted in Brussels in 1634-35 when the artist was at the height of his powers.
Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce spoke to Father Jamie at the roadshow in Newstead Abbey. She was aware the painting had been dismissed as a copy in the past but thought it had the distinctive brush strokes of a genuine Van Dyck.
At the time she was making an edition of BBC One’s “Fake or Fortune” about Van Dyck with co-presenter and art expert Philip Mould.
She suggested Philip take a look at the painting and he agreed with Fiona’s assessment, advising that the next step was careful restoration.
After weeks of painstaking cleaning and the removal of a top coat of 18th century paint which was covering the original, Dr Christopher Brown, director of the Ashmolean museum and one of the world authorities on Van Dyck, verified the painting’s authenticity.
It was on display at Christie’s New York office from May 31 to June 3 and will now be on display in London between July 5 and July 8.
Freddie de Rougemont, Christie’s Specialist, said: “We are delighted to present this beautifully observed head study by Sir Anthony Van Dyck for sale, particularly after its exciting re-discovery on the Antiques Roadshow.
“The picture is of great importance as it provides a fascinating insight into Van Dyck’s working method and also constitutes a significant surviving document for the artist’s lost group portrait of The Magistrates of Brussels.”