A painting found in a New Hampshire attic could fetch between a quarter-million and three million dollars after the owner had bought it at a thrift store for just $4.00
That’s because it’s a lost work by prolific Maine artist N.C. Wyeth, whose signature was on the painting itself, but which the buyer assumed was simply a forgery.
The painting is one of four that Wyeth, patriarch of the Wyeth family of painters, completed for a 1939 edition of Helen Hunt Jackson’s book Ramona, originally published in 1884.
According to Bonham Skinners, the auction house handling the sale, the woman unknowingly purchased the valuable work after finding it leaning against a wall in Savers thrift shop in Manchester, NH. It was stacked alongside posters and prints, and she selected it only because she was looking for frames to reuse.
After not being able to find any information on the work, the buyer hung it on her bedroom wall, but after a few years ended up stashing it in the attic. During some May cleaning, she came across the painting yet again, and this time posted pictures of it on a Facebook group dedicated to people finding things lost in walls, attics, dug up from under floorboards, or salvaged from “that abandoned house across the street from your grandma’s.”
She connected with a former curator who had handled paintings from 3 generations of the Wyeth family and knew almost immediately the piece was legitimate.
“While it certainly had some small scratches and it could use a surface clean, it was in remarkable condition considering none of us had any idea of its journey over the last 80 years,” Lewis told the Boston Globe, who covered the story.
The company that published Ramona is believed to have passed the work on to an editor or to the author’s estate at some point, and only one other of the four paintings that were made has been found.
Discovering lost famous pieces happens so often, it’s common from a news media perspective. In 2021, seven masterpieces were found in various parts of the West.
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