The first undiscovered work by Peter Paul Rubens to be found in 19 years has been authenticated in The Netherlands.
The sketch in oils, called The Secular Hierarchy in Worship, was found by an art dealer in the Hague, who obtained it from a Belgian owner.
Art historian Emilie den Tonkelaar, of the of the Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder gallery in The Hague, is used to fielding claims of long lost works by Rubens.
But she spotted there was something different about this piece, which has now been certified as genuine by a dozen experts.
“I saw it and thought we have to have a good look at this,” she told the Volkskrant newspaper.
It was originally a preparatory study for part of a tapestry series created by Rubens in the 17th century for the Franciscan convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid. It depicts a string of royals celebrating the Eucharist.
The find has been described as “exceptional”. The last Rubens oil sketch was discovered more than two decades ago and the last complete work 19 years ago.
If the sketch was in good condition, it would be expected to be worth at least five million euros.
Unfortunately, The Secular Hierarchy has fallen victim to a string of botched restorations, mostly in the 19th century. Originally painted on wood, the paint was scraped off and stuck to canvas.