The Virgin and Child with a Flower on a Grassy Bank (Around 1503) Agnews, London
Four years ago, a guy in Massachusetts went to a normal estate sale and noticed a little drawing of a lady and child. At the bottom came one of the most iconic monograms in art history: "A.D." He bought it for $30 on a whim. At the very least, he remembered, it was "a beautifully depicted piece of antique art, which justified purchasing it." The drawing, it turns out, is likely worth considerably more—possibly up to $50 million. At least, that's what London's Agnews Gallery is demanding for the artwork, thinking that the "A.D." behind it is truly German Renaissance great Albrecht Dürer.
The gallery has reason to believe it is an original Dürer drawing. Following rigorous examination, Christof Metzger, head curator at Vienna's Albertina Museum and a major authority on the artist, deemed the work genuine. Metzger has even included it in his upcoming Old Master catalogue raisonné. Giulia Bartrum, a former curator of German Prints and Drawings at The British Museum, agrees that the drawing is genuine and has arranged an exhibition around it, which is currently on display at Agnews. Both experts believe the painting was made around 1503 as a study for Dürer's famous watercolor The Virgin with a Multitude of Animals, which was completed three years later. (The painting is currently part of Albertina's collection.)
The Virgin among a multitude of animals, Dürer, Albrecht; 1471–1528. Albertina Museum
Getting to this stage of recognition—and the potential payout that comes with it—has not been easy for the consigner, who wishes to stay nameless. According to Agnews, after purchasing the artwork in 2017, he took it to many specialists for authentication and prospective sale, only to be denied each time.
The artwork wasn't properly evaluated until the owner was connected by coincidence with Clifford Schorer, a Boston-based collector. Schorer presented the drawing to Agnews, a company in which he is a shareholder, which then forwarded it to Metzger and other experts. For example, a paper restorer validated the material's age and discovered Dürer's signature Trident and Ring watermark. There was also further information discovered concerning the piece's provenance. The artwork was received as a family relic by an architect living outside of Boston, and it was most likely purchased in Paris by his grandpa in 1919. In 2012, the architect passed away.
The gallery has not set a price for the painting, titled The Virgin and Child with a Flower on a Grassy Bank, but Schorer believes it may get as much as $50 million.The gallery has a "normal consignment agreement" with the drawing's owner, and will be "paid for the three to four years of study" required to verify it, according to an Agnews spokeswoman.