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Yard sales can be an excellent source for unique, affordable finds. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. On occasion, you might even be fortunate enough to find something worth much more than you paid for it.
For a Massachusetts man, to say that he found a bargain at a yard sale would be an understatement.
In 2019, a Boston-based art collector named Clifford Schorer stopped at a bookstore known to offer collectible books, as he needed a last-minute gift. Discovering Schorer’s profession, the bookseller asked if he would come back another time to look at a piece a friend had purchased a few years earlier.
The friend believed he had a drawing by German Renaissance draughtsman, engraver, woodcutter and painter Albrecht Dürer. He’d bought it for $30 at a yard sale at the home of an architect whose father was an art dealer. While Schorer agreed to look at the piece, he was doubtful about its authenticity. A significant, unknown drawing by the artist had not been found in more than a century.
The piece looked similar to this one, titled “Mary with the Child on the Wall.”
“Generally speaking it’s an inverse relationship between how dramatic the claim is and how much of a letdown it is,” Schorer told CNN. “[For example] if someone tells me they have a Leonardo [da Vinci], I’m usually pretty confident I’m going to see some images that are unimpressive.”
However, when he went to inspect the drawing several weeks later, he was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. He told the owner, who has chosen to remain anonymous, that he believed it to be “either the greatest forgery I’ve ever seen or a masterpiece.”
Schorer began a journey to authenticate the piece, which took three years and included 17 international flights. Now, the piece has been certified as genuine by other experts, including ones associated with the British Museum and the Albertina Museum in Vienna.
Agnews Gallery, the London auction house in possession of the artwork and where Schorer is a consultant, suspects Dürer created the piece around 1503. It is thought to be a study for the artist’s famed watercolor, “The Virgin with a Multitude of Animals,” finished a short time later. (The title captures some of the common themes in his work; below is a drawing entitled “The Assumption and the Coronation of the Virgin from the Lion.”)
According to Schorer, the drawing has been subjected to technical age analysis and professional inspection to determine that it indeed bears the artist’s hallmark. The collector believes the piece to be worth more than $10 million. And while Agnews has not set a specific price, the gallery believes the art could sell for as much as $50 million.
To learn more and see an image of the artwork, you can find its digital catalog at the Agnews website.