Family Discovers Their TV Room Painting Is a Renaissance Masterpiece Worth $845K


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What hangs on the wall in your living room or TV room? Maybe a poster or a framed family photo. One family in northern France long had a painting hanging in their TV room, a painting they believed was a copy of a famous work by Pieter Brueghel the Younger. The painting has been in the family since 1900. However, knowledge of its true worth seems to have vanished over the years, if the family ever even knew the truth. It turns out the work is an authentic Brueghel, a Northern Renaissance masterpiece entitled The Village Lawyer.

The family, who has not been named, only discovered the truth when they invited an appraiser to come examine their home for antique valuables. “I arrived in a small television room which was not very well lit. I started making my estimates in the living room and turning around behind the door, there were two thirds of the painting visible,” Malo de Lussac of the auctioneers Daguerre Val de Loire, told AP News. “And that’s when in fact I discovered the painting. It was a bit of a surprise.”

The family knew that the painting depicted a work of Brueghel, but believed it was a copy. “The family ancestors bought the painting as an original, but over the years the real story was completely lost orally… Maybe the family was not necessarily interested in this painting,” he continued. “Yes, they called it the Brueghel, but they had no idea it actually was!”

Three experts in Paris independently confirmed the painting's authenticity. It dates to the years between 1615 and 1617, when the middle-aged Brueghel was living in Antwerp. Brueghel's father had been a Flemish painter as well, known as Brueghel the Elder. Both father and son were painters of the Northern Renaissance, a flourishing artistic period in northern Europe. The recently discovered the painting is one of several versions which were created by the artist. It depicts a scene of peasants waiting for a lawyer (sometimes thought to be a tax collector) with stacks of paper and money surrounding him. Brueghel was known for painting such scenes of village life, such as preaching and marriage processions. This work in particular is large for a Brueghel at 44 inches high and 72.4 inches wide.

After authentication, the work was offered for auction at Drouot in Paris, where it was estimated to sell for between €600,000 and €800,000. An anonymous Swiss buyer won the prize with a price of €780,000 or about $845,000. However, de Lussac is not likely to get over the excitement of the find anytime soon, as he says, “[It] was the biggest moment of my career. But of course I was cautious. It is after all rather rare to find a Brueghel hanging in a television room.”

A French family discovered the painting which had long hung in their TV room was actually a masterpiece by Pieter Brueghel the Younger from 1615 to 1617.

The Village Lawyer

Another version of “The Village Lawyer,” also called “The Tax Collector's Office.” This version is displayed in the Art Gallery of South Australia. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

The painting recently sold at auction for $845,000.

Peter Brueghel the Younger

Peter Brueghel the Younger, as drawn by Anthony van Dyck in the early 17th century. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

h/t: [Insider]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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