An oil painting originally thought to have been worth around £300, has sold for £3 million at auction. The painting came to light in August 2010, and was part of a collections of paintings originally owned by the 19th century British artist Matthew Shepperson. The owner of the picture, who had inherited it from an uncle, brought it into the Bonhams auctioneers office in Whitstable along with others in Shepperson's collection to be valued.
It turned out to be a long lost work by the famous Spanish painter Velasquez, painted sometime in the first half of the 17th century, featuring the face of an unknown balding man wearing a black tunic and white collar. The portrait was confirmed to be by Velasquez after X-ray examination and extensive research carried out over many months.
Dr Peter Cherry, Professor of Art History at the University of Dublin is an expert on Velasquez. He said: "The particularized likeness and recognisably lifelike texture, weight and colours of the fleshy face speak of the actual encounter between subject and painter; while the style and technical brilliance of the representation itself betray its author."
Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velasquez was born in 1599 and became the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV of Spain. His naturalistic approach to his subjects is thought to have influence later artists like Manet, Picasso, Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon. It is thought the man in the painting could have been Juan Mateos, King Philip IV's Master of the Hunt.
Andrew Mackenzie, director of old master paintings at Bonhams said: "Velasquez is one of the greatest geniuses in the entire history of Western art. The discovery of this lost treasure is a once in a lifetime experience and it has been tremendously exciting to be able to bring it to the world's attention. This is a portrait of outstanding quality which has the most extraordinary presence."