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Rare painting of Flemish master stumbled upon abandoned in French home

The Brueghel the Younger painting, accidentally found during a house inventory, is now set to be auctioned in Paris

The painting was discovered in a house in France, abandoned, dirty and yellowed, after being mistaken for a non-authentic copy Pic: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

A family in France has found a rare painting by Brueghel the Younger, son of the master Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel the Elder, behind a door of their house. 

It is now set to be sold at auction in Paris.

The accidental discovery was made by an auctioneer, Malo de Lussac, as he was doing an inventory of the family’s possessions on October 10, 2022. 

The family called in Mr de Lussac, but they were not art collectors, nor did they have any particular knowledge of art history. 

When Mr de Lussac entered a small room in the home, he noticed a large painting, almost 2 metres by 1 metres in dimension. It was dirty and yellowed, and appeared to have been stored behind a door.  

The family said they nicknamed the piece “the crust”, and believed it to be a work in the style of a Breughel, but not an authentic work. However, Mr de Lussac, an expert on art history, quickly identified the painting and suspected it was more authentic than the family had realised.

The painting was not signed, but it was later verified as a genuine Pieter Brueghel the Younger work, depicting a scene known as L’Avocat du village (The Village Lawyer), also known as The Tax Collector’s Office.

It dates from before 1618, and has not been on the art market since 1900.

The work is considered to belong to the ‘golden age’ of Flanders painting from the 17th century. Brueghel the Younger, who was born in Brussels in 1564, is known particularly for making copies of his father’s work (his father was also known as ‘Peasant Brueghel’), as well as his own scenes. 

Leading auction house Hôtel Drouot, a specialist in fine art and antiques, is now set to auction the discovered painting on March 28, in Paris. It is said to be worth between €600,000 and €800,000.

It comes after a similar case emerged in March 2021, when a painting that had been hanging almost unnoticed in a French family’s living room for decades was revealed to be a 'lost' work by eighteenth-century master artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and estimated to be worth €1.5-2million.

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