Art in odd places: 5 famous works in fields, sofas and thrift store frames

The Four Seasons Restaurant has always been the favourite eatery of New York's powerful elite, drawn not only by the exceptional fare but the opportunity to dine with Picasso.

The much-lauded artist's Le Tricorne, a monumental work painted on a stage curtain, has hung in the restaurant for over 50 years, and is believed to be the biggest Picasso in North America.

Art students have paid a month's-worth of tuition fees to come and sketch in its midst. Princesses have peered at it while dining on the finest foie-gras.

Yet the restaurant's owners are removing the painting to make way for repairs on the wall behind it, despite conservationists crying out with fears that the move could destroy it.

But Picasso wasn't the only one whose paintings have appeared in strange places - take a look at some of the greatest art discoveries in the most unusual corners of the globe.

Escape to Egypt

Preparation to Escape to Egypt
The $27,630 painting found in a sofa bed

Flea markets are well known for unearthing some incredible bargains, so naturally a Berlin student headed in that direction when she needed a new couch for her university digs.

The one she settled for was a steal, and even folded out into a bed, making it perfect for student stopovers.

Yet as the hard-up fresher unfolded the sofa bed, she noticed a small oil painting inside...

Entitled "Preparation to Escape to Egypt", it was revealed to be the work of one of the followers of Carlo Saraceni, a Venetian painter whose career spanned the early 1600s.

Given it was found in Berlin, the painting was likely hidden from the Nazis during the second world war and forgotten about. However, it sold for $27,630 in Hamburg, making the student's university life a whole lot more comfortable.

All quiet...

All quiet on the western front poster
Very few pieces of ephemera from the film have survived the tests of time

Laura Stouffer knew she had picked up a bargain when she noticed a print of Albert Schneck's  famous work Shepherd's Call in a thrift shop. An art dealer and collector, she guessed the owner was none the wiser and instantly bought it, knowing she could make a profit.

However, when she removed the frame to clean the dust-caked print, another piece of paper fell from behind it…

That sheet turned out to be the original window card from All Quiet on the Western Front - an extremely valuable piece.

Originally worthless, it was probably used to back Schneck's work without a second thought. Yet as time passed, ephemera from the 1930 film was all-but destroyed and lost, and today any window cards from the film are worth upwards of $1,000.

A rather peasant find…

French naval troops had to fight Greek brigands before they could present the prize to King Louis XVIII

There's few things more disheartening than digging a hole, only for your shovel to hit stone minutes later…

Unless that stone is a priceless piece of Greek art.

In 1820, a Greek peasant was digging in one of his fields when he hit pay dirt. He unearthed a carved piece of stone and, pressing on, was soon in the possession of four Greek statues - three depicting messenger to the gods, Hermes, and one of the goddess Aphrodite.

The news quickly spread and France immediately sent archaeologists to the site. The Aphrodite was purchased on behalf of King Louis XVIII, who renamed it the Venus de Milo, now one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture.

Believed to have been created between 130 and 100 BC by Alexandros of Antioch, the sculpture has remained in the Louvre since its purchase.

We're guessing Yorgos Kentrotas, the peasant farmer, never had to dig another hole in his life.

Artistic abandon

Marthe de Florian once dated the 'Master of Swish' as well as a few French presidents

You may remember this one from 2010…

At the start of the second world war, a sumptuous Parisian apartment was abandoned by its lady owner, who fled to the safer climes of the south.

However, rather than give up the home, which presumably had huge sentimental value for her, she maintained payments, leaving it to gather dust as a remarkable time capsule of pre-war splendour.

It was only when the woman died in 2010 that authorities were given permission to enter the flat. Inside were hundreds of spectacular antiques and works of art, covered in sheets and thick films of dust.

The most valuable of those was a stunning painting by Italian artist Giovanni Boldini - AKA the "Master of Swish".

However, doubt was cast upon the painting's authenticity, as it was not recorded anywhere within his oeuvre. Only on further inspection of the home was a note discovered, signed by Boldini himself, that proved its authenticity.

The painting later made $2.5m at auction. It turned out to be a portrait of the owner's grandmother, Marthe de Florian, a Parisian actress and courtesan about whom almost nothing was known until the discovery.

From valuation to Van Gogh

Van Gogh
This isn't the only Van Gogh to have surprised its owners - a British couple recently bought another for $3,000 off the internet

Van Gogh's work is highly sought after by collectors, much of it now safely housed in museums across the world.

Naturally, the next best option is to purchase a reproduction of his work - settling for second prize is as close as most of us will come.

In the early 1990s, a middle-aged couple from Wisconsin called an art appraiser to their home to look at a piece of art they thought was valuable. Sadly, it wasn't.

Yet before he left, the appraiser's beady eyes caught the vivid colours of a Van Gogh work on the wall, which both he and the owners dismissed immediately as a reproduction.

A closer inspection cast shadow on that idea, as the virtuosic brushstrokes of the Dutch artist made its identity apparent. A quick bit of research later and the couple were sitting on a $1.4m fortune - a fine addition to their impending retirement.

"It's discoveries like these that make collecting such an exciting hobby," says collectibles expert Paul Fraser, founder of Paul Fraser Collectibles.

"While most of us will never afford a Picasso or Greek statue, you never know what you might find hidden away, and what stories that collectible might reveal."

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