Religious art found in shed sells for €40,000

Niamh Keegan

Published 19/07/2014 | 12:00

A RARE 15th century Flemish altarpiece that was almost dumped during a clear out of a shed at the Parochial House in Piercestown has been sold for €40,000 at an international fine arts auction.

The valuable religious artwork dating back to 1490, sold for way below its guide price of €80,000 to €120,000 estimated by Sheppards art auction specialists in Durrow, Co. Laois, ahead of last week's auction.

However, parish priest Fr John O'Reilly, who salvaged the artwork, said he was not disappointed with the price because the altar piece 'could have ended up in the skip'.

The three-foot Belgian triptych was salvaged two years ago by Fr O'Reilly, who fortunately spotted the scenes from the Passion through the years of dust on what was believed to be 'an old bathroom cabinet'. 'The sun shone on it and we saw the outline of a figure,' he said after the auction in Durrow.

The bidding was slow, starting at €10,000, and with no reserve price the gavel came down at €40,000. It was sold to a Belgian art dealer who will have to spend thousands conserving the piece, which could eventually re-sell for a six-figure sum if it is returned to its original condition. Fr O'Reilly, who attended the auction with his niece Tracy McHugh, said the unexpected funds would be brought back to the parish and they would all decide how it would be spent.

Wexford People

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