A Whaley Bridge priest who bought a painting for £400 has discovered it is worth £400,000 thanks to the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.
Father Jamie MacLeod bought the portrait from an antiques shop in Cheshire and hung it at the ecumenical retreat Whaley Hall in Whaley Bridge.
But after taking it to a roadshow in Newstead Abbey in summer 2012, it has since been discovered that the painting is a genuine Sir Anthony Van Dyck, worth a thousand times more than he paid for it.
Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce spoke to Father Jamie at the roadshow. 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 and said 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.
Father Jamie now intends to sell the painting to raise money towards new bells for his project to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.
He said: “It’s been an emotional experience and it’s such great news. It’s wonderful that new church bells hopefully will be pealing out to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in 2018.”
Fiona Bruce added: “It’s everyone’s dream to spot a hidden masterpiece, I’m thrilled that my hunch paid off. To discover a genuine Van Dyck is incredibly exciting. I’m so pleased for Father Jamie.”
“Discoveries of this type are exceptionally rare,” said Philip Mould.
“The painting’s emergence from beneath layers of paint was dramatic.
“It’s been revealed as a thrilling example of Van Dyck’s skills of direct observation that made him so great a portrait painter.”