Painting bought by a British priest is found to be a Van Dyck masterpiece

CANTERBURY, England — He bought it a dozen years ago at a local antiques shop to help brighten up a Derbyshire retreat home run by his church.

But when he tried to sell it to buy church bells, the Roman Catholic priest was told by an art expert that the painting, the “Magistrate of Brussels,” in a large gold varnished frame that he’d bought for about $575 at the time, was the work of the great 17th-century Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck.

Ancient Roman costumed groups of people parade in the ancient areas of Colosseum , Circus Maximus and the Roman Forum to celebrate the festivities of Christmas of Rome, in Rome, Monday, April 21, 2014. Legend says that Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 BC in an area surrounded by seven hills. Every year the city celebrates the Birth of Rome with parades and fighting in costume, re-enacting the deeds of the great ancient Roman Empire. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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“It’s been an emotional experience and it’s such great news,” the Rev. Jamie MacLeod said after being told the painting was valued at about $660,000.

It’s a story that has stunned the art world and encouraged amateur collectors the world over to take another look at what’s hanging on their walls.

The sensational discovery was made by journalist Fiona Bruce who presents the popular weekly TV series, “Antiques Roadshow” where art experts put a cash value on family heirlooms and little regarded family treasures often hidden away in spare rooms and attics.

Bruce identified MacLeod’s painting as a possible Van Dyck original in June.

She’d been working alongside art expert Philip Mould on a planned TV series about the Dutch master who was the most famous of all court painters during the turbulent reign of the English monarch, King Charles I (1625-1649).

Following detailed restoration work, the painting was verified as a Van Dyck original by one of the world’s authorities on that painter, Christopher Brown.

MacLeod said selling the painting was “a very difficult decision” but that it would help him with his ambition to install new church bells to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

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