Check Grandma’s Art — This 90-Year-Old Had a 16th-Century Painting in Her House

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Apr 14, 2024

A 90-year-old woman has become the center of attention among art collectors and critics online after a rare masterpiece was discovered hanging on her bedroom wall. 

In the woman’s possession was the 16th-century Depiction of the Madonna and Child, a long-lost Renaissance painting that many experts hadn’t seen for several decades. 

Appraiser Inspects Contents of an Elderly Woman's Home

When Siobhan Tyrrell, the head of valuations at Dawsons Auctions, was asked to appraise several items and a women’s home in London, she was unprepared for the shock that would soon follow. 

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An image of Siobhan Tyrrell speaking during a video on YouTube

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Tyrrell was asked by the family of an elderly woman who had been placed in care to check and see if anything of value remained in the home, per Newsweek

Woman Spots 16th-Century Piece of Art

Tyrell, who also moonlights as an expert on the popular show “Antiques Roadshow,” walked through the home room by room, hoping to find something of value to help the family pay for the elderly woman’s care. 

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A woman is pictured looking at a piece of art hanging on a wall

Source: Wikimedia

When she reached the bedroom, Tyrrell noticed a painting hanging on the wall, which she soon realized was from the 16th century.

The Appraiser Was Left Flabbergasted

Speaking about her initial thoughts of the painting, Tyrrell recalls being shocked to discover such a beautiful piece of 16th-century art.

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“I was amazed to see this beautiful, 16th-century religious painting, something you don’t often see on your typical valuation, so it was just flabbergasting,” she told Newsweek.

Exceptional Work from the 16th Century

“Most of the contents of the house were of relatively low value, so when I went into her bedroom I was utterly shocked when I saw this early religious painting hanging above her bed. It literally glowed with quality,” said Tyrrell. 

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“I’m not a painting specialist; however, as a general valuer with over 25 years of experience, I recognized that it was an exceptional work from the 16th century.”

Further Inspection Reveals the Origin of the Painting

After further investigation, it was discovered that the painting was associated with a follower of the revered artist Filippino Lippi. 

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A 16th-century painting titled Depiction of the Madonna and Child

Source: Wikimedia

The painting, titled The Depiction of the Madonna and Child, portrays baby Jesus alongside his mother and two angels.

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Who Was Filipino Lippi?

Born in the 15th century, Lippi was one of the greatest painters of the era, and his work was greatly admired during his lifetime, according to The Daily Mail. 

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An image of the Italian painter Filippino Lippi

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While he would be outshined by later Italian artists, including Michelangelo and Raphael, many experts suggest Lippi’s work inspired many High Renaissance artists.

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Family Agree to Take the Art to Auction

After discovering the news, Tyrrell revealed that the family decided to list the masterpiece for sale at Dawson’s Auction House. 

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“I immediately told the family of its potential high worth, and they were keen for me to take it to be consigned to our fine art sale,” she said

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A Lifeline for the Elderly Woman

The find came at a stressful time for the family of the elderly woman as they searched for anything of value to help ensure the cost of her care would be covered.

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An image of an elderly woman in care

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According to Dawson, the family was “keen to provide improved care and accommodation to make her life more comfortable, but increased costs had made this impossible until now.”

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Masterpiece Fetches Hefty Price at Auction

When the masterpiece went up for auction in 2022, it was revealed that it was likely completed by one of Lippi’s followers. 

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An image of one of Filippino Lippi’s pieces of art titled Madonna with Child and Saints

Source: Wikimedia

This led to numerous people bidding on the rare piece, which eventually sold for $300,000. 

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Auctioneer Shares Opinion on the 16th-Century Masterpiece

Peter Mason, the auctioneer on the day, said, “We had over 20 active bidders on the day, but it became a two-horse race when we reached £100,000” (via The Daily Mail).

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“We knew it would do well, but the final hammer price exceeded our expectations.”

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Hope for Everyone

Aubrey Dawson, the auction house’s managing director, said, “As an international auction house, we sell many items of much higher value, but this was special and gave the team a real buzz.”

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“The discovery of this painting was one of those moments, and the fact the owner and her family had no idea of its value made it all the more enjoyable for everyone concerned.”

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