Auction World Volume 18 No.1
Painting from attic nets $1 million
AMESBURY, MA (AP) - A painting that gathered dust in a cluttered attic for more that 60 years fetched just over a million dollars at auction in December. The century-old painting by Martin Johnson Heade was discovered by Leigh and Leslie Keno, hosts of the PBS television show "Find!" after they were tipped off by an appraiser that the painting was in her home. The 12-inch by 26-inch river landscape at sunset which features a sailing vessel in the foreground has been stored in the attic, face to the wall, for more than 60 years. The Kenos took the painting to Heade expert Ted Stebbins Jr., head of American Art at Harvard's Fogg Museum. Stebbins authenticated the piece; which is still in its original gilt frame.
"From the minute we walked in the door, we realized that we had entered a treasure trove of special collectibles, but couldn't have imagined that we would have found a work by such a pre-eminent artist," Leslie Keno said. At auction, the painting was sold to New York City gallery owner, Michael Altman, who was bidding for a private collector.
The sale price was more than double what the Kenos expected. "It's a true treasure out of the attic, literally," Leigh Keno said by phone from the Amesbury Auction House.
"We knew something like this might happen someday on the show. We didn't think it would happen this quickly."
The seller is "still recovering," Leigh Keno said. "It's so nice to see great things happen to nice people."
The painting's discovery and auction were aired on separate episodes of "Find!" in December and January. Heade, who lived from 1819 to 1904, was virtually unknown in his day, but now is widely recognized as one of the greatest American romantic painters.
"It was determined to be a Newburyport scene," Leigh Keno said of the painting. "This was one of his favorite areas to paint."