A number of 'previously unknown' artworks have cropped up on the collectible art markets in 2011. The latest is a portrait of a gentleman by the Spanish artist Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660).
The rare art portrait yesterday auctioned for £3 million (on Wednesday 7 December) in an Old Master Paintings auction at Bonhams, London. Bonhams posted a £6,329,500 final result for its sale.
According to reports, the winning bidder for the rare Velázquez piece was Alfred Bader Fine Arts (ABFA), a "virtual" gallery based in Milwaukee, US.
ABFA's vice president David Bader, who attended the bidding at Bonhams in London, reportedly described his art purchase as the "bargain of the decade."
Said Andrew Mckenzie, Director of Old Master Paintings at Bonhams: "This is a portrait of outstanding quality which has the most extraordinary presence."
"To have worked so closely with it has been a wonderful experience and a highlight of my career."
Velázquez's Portrait of a Gentleman was rediscovered when a number of works by the 19th century British artist, Matthew Shepperson, were consigned for sale at Bonhams' Oxford office in August 2010.
These included the Portrait of a Gentleman. The striking piece of art was soon brought to the attention of Bonhams' Old Master Paintings department in London.
Portrait of a Gentleman by the Spanish artist Diego Rodriguez de
The department advised the Oxford saleroom to withdraw the portrait from its auction for further investigation - chiefly because of its stylistic similarities to works by the great Spanish master, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez.
After extensive research by the department and consultant Brian Koetser, these views were confirmed by Dr Peter Cherry, Professor of Art History at the University of Dublin, Ireland. Cherry is one of the world's foremost authorities on Velázquez and his school.
In an article for the Spanish arts magazine ARS, Cherry wrote: "the particularised likeness and recognisably lifelike texture, weight and colours of the fleshy face speak of the actual encounter between subject and painter...
"The style and technical brilliance of the representation itself betrays its author."
Other experts were consulted about the painting, with further technical analysis and an X-radiograph employed to confirm that the artwork is indeed a Velázquez.
World Record for Dutch artist Adriaen Coorte
Another highlight in Bonhams' Old Master Paintings auction was a second 'lost masterpiece' of considerable importance.
'Three Peaches on a Stone Ledge with a painted lady butterfly' by the Dutch artist Adriaen Coorte sold for £2.1million, setting a new World Record price for the artist at auction and smashing the pre-sale estimate of £300,000-500,000.
See our special report: 'Our Top Five... Rediscovered Collectibles - gems which should never have been lost'