Gainsborough painting bought for £2,600 could sell at auction for £50,000

A portrait of a woman, which is one of the earliest known works by artist Thomas Gainsborough, is to be auctioned with an estimate of £30,000-50,000. (Chiefs/ AP)

One of the earliest known works by 18th century painter Thomas Gainsborough, originally misattributed and bought by a retired business manager for £2,600, is to be auctioned with a pre-sale estimate of 30,000-50,000 £.

The British artist Gainsborough (1727-1788) is said to have painted the portrait of a woman, a member of the Seton family, when she was 16 years old.

It is said to have been painted while staying at Hatton Garden in London, having moved there from Suffolk.

The work was bought by its current owner, Robert Mulraine, at auction in 2016 for £2,600 before being authenticated as having been created by a young Gainsborough.

Mr Mulraine said at the time that he became involved in finding misattributed paintings online through his art restorer son, James.

He said he saw the portrait, which at the time was attributed to the circle of painter Arthur Devis, and believed it might be a Gainsborough.

After extensive research, the work was identified as being by Gainsborough and has since been included in art historian Hugh Belsey’s 2019 publication, catalog raisonné, as Portrait of a Young Lady in a Green Dress .

Mr Belsey, an authority on Gainsborough, said: ‘It is only in recent years that the first portraits of Thomas Gainsborough have been identified.

“The artist’s acute observation and extraordinary ability to paint fabrics are telling traits and this small portrait of a young woman of the Seton family is among the very first painted by Gainsborough.

“It has not been possible to establish the precise identity of the sitter… she probably lived in London rather than the artist’s native Suffolk.”

In his authoritative catalogue, Thomas Gainsborough: The Portraits, Fancy Pictures And Copies After Old Masters, Mr. Belsey lists only two earlier portraits.

The first is a miniature portrait of a young girl and the second is a self-portrait believed to have been painted by Gainsborough in her early teens, sold by Cheffins auctioneers in Cambridge last year for a hammer price of 90 £000.

Nicolas Martineau, of Cheffins – where the work is to be sold, said: “This latest and exciting discovery represents yet another glimpse into Gainsborough’s early career, helping us to fully appreciate his extraordinary ability from an early age. “

The portrait will be part of The Fine Sale at Cheffins on March 23.

About Catharine C. Bean

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