Long-Lost Renaissance Masterpiece Found Hanging in 90-Year-Old's Bedroom

A long-lost Renaissance painting has been found hanging on the bedroom wall of a 90-year-old woman, decades after it was last seen.

The 16th-century masterpiece, The Depiction of the Madonna and Child, by a follower of Filippino Lippi, shows Mary with the baby Jesus, flanked by two angels.

The incredible artwork went under the hammer last month at Dawsons Auctions, selling for a staggering £255,000 ($310,542).

Siobhan Tyrrell, Dawsons head of valuations, found the painting in the woman's empty house, in London, after being asked to appraise the contents.

The Depiction of the Madonna and Child
The Depiction of the Madonna and Child, by a follower of Filippino Lippi. The Renaissance painting, lost for decades, was found hanging in the bedroom of a 90-year-old woman. Dawsons Auctions

Tyrrell, one of the experts on the BBC TV show Antiques Roadshow, said she was flabbergasted after walking into the room and spotting the oil painting in a giltwood frame.

The elderly woman, who was suffering from dementia, had been moved to a nursing facility, and her family was looking to raise funds for her care.

Initially the expectations were "low" at finding anything of value at the property, until Tyrell walked into the bedroom—the last room she visited.

In a video clip talking about the find, she said: "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 explained how the woman came to have the artwork: "The 90-year-old owner had left Italy in her youth, and when her father died, she inherited the painting. It had been in her ownership for over 30 years.

"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!

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

"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."

Dawsons explained her relatives were "keen to provide improved care and accommodation to make her life more comfortable, but increased costs had made this impossible... until now."

The funds from the sale will be used to pay for the woman's care, with Tyrell saying it was a "godsend" for her.

While the auction house attributed the work to a follower of Lippi, Artnet cites only five paintings by the artist exceeding the auction figure, lending support to the theory bidders suspected Lippi painted it himself.

The most expensive Lippi painting, The Penitent Mary Magdalen adoring the True Cross in a Rocky Landscape, was sold in 2005 for $2.3 million, at Christie's.

Italian Lippi, thought to have been born in 1457, was the son of Fra Filippo Lippi, himself a master Florentine painter, renowned for his depictions of the Madonna.

The National Gallery described the younger Lippi as: "A leading Florentine exponent of the tradition of great fresco cycles, as well as an accomplished painter on panel.

"Filippino's fame spread throughout Italy and he painted major series of frescoes in Rome as well as Florence. He was also a renowned painter of altarpieces, receiving commissions from Milan, Bologna and Genoa."

Following his father's death, Lippi entered the workshop of Sandro Botticelli—initially mentored by the elder Lippi—hailed by the Encyclopedia Britannica as "one of the greatest painters of the Florentine Renaissance."