A SECOND-HAND painting bought at a charity shop for just £3 has been sold for an eye-watering £155,000.
The painting, said to be identified by experts as ‘Ramona’, a lost work by celebrated American artist N.C. Wyeth, was purchased by an anonymous woman in 2017.
It was only years later when she listed it on Facebook that an art conservator immediately recognised the piece and had to examine it in person.
Six years down the line, it was listed for £156,000 at Bonhams Skinner on September 19, 2023.
A spokesperson from the auction company said: “This work was likely gifted by the publishers to an editor or the author’s estate.
“But its location was unknown until it was found by chance in a New Hampshire antique shop by the owner.”
And within a week, it had been sold for £162,705 – 65,000 times what it was originally purchased for in the second-hand saver store in 2017.
Following the remarkable sequence of events, Savers store manager Shaun Edson, said the original donator and buyer remain unknown to this day.
He said: “From what I understand, that painting was donated through our donation centre and then made its way out to the floor.
“Our donations are done anonymously.”
The painting is only 70cm by 50cm but one huge feature was the barely visible signature “N C Wyeth” in one of its corners.
This, along with its beauty, prompted the woman who originally bought it to conduct a brief internet search, but it quickly came to nothing.
That is, however, until she posted it on a Facebook page six years later.
Now, American and European works of art specialist at Bonhams Skinner, Kathleen Leland, is auctioning the painting at £200,000.
Not knowing what she had found, she joked about it being a real painting but after not finding anything in a quick internet search, didn’t give it another thought,” said Kathleen.
“The painting hung in her bedroom for a few years and was then stored away again in a closet.
“In May of this year while cleaning, she came across the painting again and posted some images of it on a Facebook page called Things Found in Walls.”
Members of the group were astounded at what they saw and quickly encouraged the woman to contact art conserver Lauren Lewis.
Ms Lewis, who previously worked at the Wyeth Study Center at the Farnsworth Art Museum, instantly drove three hours to meet her.
She believed that the piece was an authentic work by the prolific American illustrator Newell Convers Wyeth.
Wyeth painted some 4000 illustrations for books and magazines in the first half of the 20th Century and is most famous for his reprints of Robin Hood and Treasure Island.
Ms Lewis told the Boston Globe she was “99 per cent certain it was authentic” and also spoke with a scholar on Wyeth’s work, who agreed it was “likely the original”.
Ms Lewis was astonished that the painting “was in remarkable condition considering none of us had any idea of its journey over the last 80 years.”
On the back of the painting were several labels pointing to it’s authenticity, with one torn sticker reading “Ramona”.
This led Ms Lewis and other experts to conclude the painting was one of four created by Wyeth for a 1939 edition of Ramona, an iconic American novel by Helen Hunt Jackson.
Only one other painting in the Ramona series has been located, according to the listing description.
Finding treasures such as the painting by Wyeth is “extraordinarily uncommon”, according to Ms Leland.
She told local outlet Delaware Online: “Discoveries such as this are certainly rare.
“Not only because of the limited supply of remarkable works that end up in thrift shops.
“But also because it is difficult for anyone other than an expert in antiques or fine art to be able to recognise the significance of what they have found.”