Couple's Garden Sculpture Is Lost Masterpiece That Could Be Worth £8 Million
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It’s not a bad thing to discover that you’ve got lying around in the garden, is it?
It turns out that the statue was created by Italian master sculptor Antonio Canova and depicts Mary Magdalene reclining in grief.
It’s known as Maddalena Giacente – or Recumbent Magdalene in English – and it was initially commissioned by the former British prime minister Lord Liverpool.
Sadly, the statue fell into the mists of time before now resurfacing as a ‘sleeping beauty’ of the art world.
The statue was eventually rediscovered and identified in 2002 after it was sold at a garden statue auction for just £5,200.
Now, it’s expected to fetch between £5 million and £8 million when it goes under the hammer.
Dr Mario Guderzo, a leading expert on Canova and former director of a museum dedicated to the artist, told The Guardian: “It is a miracle that Antonio Canova’s exceptional, long-lost masterpiece has been found, 200 years after its completion.
“This work has been searched for by scholars for decades, so the discovery is of fundamental importance for the history of collecting and the history of art.”
The sculpture is due to go on sale at Christie’s this summer, and while the sellers have not been named, they are said to be a British couple who purchased it to spruce up their garden.
They will certainly be able to afford to do that if the sale goes as expected.
The statue was commissioned by Lord Liverpool in 1819, who – when in government – was responsible for the founding of the National Gallery.
When he died in 1828, the statue – alongside his titles and estate – went to his brother Charles.
This is the second time that the statue has passed through Christie’s as it was auctioned by them exactly 170 years ago in 1852.
The statue is thought to have been lost after it passed into the ownership of a carpet manufacturer called Sir Herbert Smith.
It remained lost until 2002, when the current owners realised there might be more to their garden ornament and contacted an art adviser, who then confirmed it was the lost piece.
Writing about his piece in 1819, Canova said: “I exhibited another model of a second Magdalene lying on the ground, and almost fainting from the excessive pain of her penitence, a subject that I like very much, and that has earned me a lot of indulgence, and very flattering praise.”