An ‘unfashionable’ Edwardian painting bought at Harrods for £100 was revealed to be a missing masterpiece that has sold for an incredible £380,000.
The oil painting by English artist John Godward was purchased as an ‘impulse buy’ by a canny collector in 1957 who bought it at a reduced price as it was deemed unfashionable.
Art expert Richard Kay was shocked when he identified the 1909 painting by Godward that had been missing from the art world since 1937.
Godward’s works have become incredibly popular in recent times and so today at auction the work, which measures 20x30in, sold for £320,000 plus £60,000 of fees to an anonymous London dealer.
The unidentified woman from Somerset loved the painting, of a wistful-looking woman sitting on a marbled seat, until her death in 1979 when it was inherited by her daughter.
The daughter, who did not like the painting quite as much, decided to sell it at auction.
The family who sold the painting, entitled ‘Summer Idleness; Day Dreams,’ attended the auction at Lawrences Auctioneers in Crewkerne, Somerset and were ‘very happy’ with the price.
Mr Kay said: ‘The vendor’s mother bought it at Harrods in London in 1957 on impulse.
‘Now, 55 years later, her good eye has led to her family receiving this vast amount of money for it.
‘The family were very happy with the price. It is a sum of money that will make a great deal of difference to their lives.
‘Godward would have been astonished by the price. Even his very finest works were making just £150 during his lifetime, which equates with barely £10,000 in today’s money.’
Tragically, Godward committed suicide in 1922 by putting his head in a gas oven when he feared that modern art by artists such as Picasso were making his style of work obsolete.
Mr Kay said: ‘This picture was last recorded when it sold at auction in London in 1937.
‘Up until now scholars only knew of the picture from a 1910 print.
‘I suspect that after it sold at auction the owner couldn’t sell it because nobody wanted it and gave it to Harrods to sell for him.
‘The owner’s mother was very keen on art but didn’t have a great deal of money to spend on it.
‘On a visit to see her sister who lived in west London in 1957, she went in to Harrods and was bowled over by the quality of this painting.
‘It is a Victorian picture in style which was really out of fashion in the 1950s.
‘Against the opinion of the art world she acted on impulse and paid a not inconsiderable amount of money for it.
‘£100 in 1957 was worth about £2,000 today but even in the late 1970s this picture would have been worth barely £5,000.’
The owner used to hang the painting on her wall but took it down for safekeeping after realising Godward’s works were becoming valuable.
The painting was either painted in Greece or Italy where Godward spent a lot of his time as an artist.
It shows a buxom woman wearing a flimsy purple dress sitting with her legs up on a marble seat.