Back in 2002, New York art collector Albert B. Roberts stumbled upon an oil painting with bird droppings scattered over it and believed it to be a genuine piece by Flemish Baroque artist, Anthony van Dyck. Roberts paid $600 USD to acquire the sketch and had it authenticated in 2019 by art historian Susan Barnes, who deemed it “surprisingly well-preserved” and an “impressive and important find that helps us understand more about the artist’s method as a young man.”
Sotheby’s recently acquired the sketch by Roberts’ estate after his death in 2021 and will feature it in its upcoming Masters Week auction, where it is expected to garner roughly $3M USD. Experts believe Van Dyck created the piece between 1615 and 1618, while working as an assistant to Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. The oil sketch depicts a naked old man as he is slouched against a corner decrepitly looking out into the distance. The work is likely a study for Van Dyck’s Saint Jerome (1618–20), which is on view at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam.
Sotheby’s Masters Week sale is currently ongoing in New York until January 30. Please visit the auctioneer’s website for more information.