Surprised Madrid Museum Finds Lost Anthony Van Dyck Madonna and Child in Its Basement

Surprised Madrid Museum Finds Lost Anthony Van Dyck Madonna and Child in Its Basement

Just when it seemed that museums finding lost masterpieces buried in their basements, tucked away in their waiting rooms, or hanging unnoticed on their walls was merely a bizarre 2010 trend, Madrid's San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts has proven that museological serendipity is alive and well by  discovering a previously unknown painting by 17th-century Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck in, yes, its basement.

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The Telegraph reports that the work, "The Virgin and Child," by the master British court painter whose languidly graceful portraiture blossomed under the patronage of Charles I, depicts the Virgin Mary holding her babe, as Mary Magdalene, King David, and the prodigal son look on. For many years the 1625 work was believed to be a copy, but recent X-ray analysis has led restorers to confirm its prestigious authorship. (Its estimated value was not reported, but in 2009 a van Dyck self-portrait achieved a shocking £8.3 million at Sotheby's, over a high presale estimate of only £3 million more than doubling the previous artist record of £3.1 million from 2008.)

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The painting's provenance includes a 17th-century stint in the collection of the onetime Spanish Viceroy of Naples, Duke of Medina de las Torres, followed by a sojourn in the monastery of El Escorial near Madrid, before it headed to the San Fernando Academy.

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For anyone who forgot the rash of old-master finds last year,  Yale University Art Gallery art gallery discovered that it had a Velázquez; the Prado noticed that it owned a Bruegel; the Staedel in Frankfurt dug up a Kirchner; and a Rotterdam museum realized that the painting hanging in its reception room happened to be a Rembrandt. Plus, a British duo found a Chinese imperial-era vase in their attic that went on to notch a world record for a Chinese artwork at auction, fetching $85.9 million