THIS summer has seen a spate of sleepers awoken in provincial salerooms, but inevitably the one that grabbed the headlines in the national press was the tale of the rediscovered ‘Titian’.
Could this portrait catalogued as "18th century continental school" and given an estimate of £300-500 at Gilding's sale in Market Harborough, Leicestershire on July 10, in fact be an early work by Tiziano Vecelli (1485-1576) better known as Titian?
Four leading Old Master dealers have told ATG that it could well be by the Venetian Renaissance master.
At the auction, it soon became apparent that the 3ft x 2ft 2in (90 x 66cm) oil on canvas might harbour some serious potential.
Bidding started at just £300 but two interested parties in the room took the bidding up in increments of £3000 then £5000 up to a final £205,000. This set a new house record for the auctioneers, beating their previous high of £110,000 tendered for a Gillows desk back in 1991.
The anonymous buyer was a London dealer and the underbidder is also believed to be a member of the trade.
Consigned by a local vendor, the style of the picture suggests it is an early 16th century Venetian painting. The subject appears to be the Italian diplomat and scholar Baldassare Castiglione.
The best-known image of Castiglione is Raphael's 1515-1516 portrait, now in the Louvre.
Titian is known to have produced at least two paintings of Castiglione. One of them, dating from 1523, depicts Castiglione with the same distant stare and in a similar pose as this work. The other is Titian's 1536 portrait of Castiglione, now in the National Gallery of Ireland. The work seen at Gilding's probably pre-dates both these works.
Last week, the press widely reported that the Gilding's portrait might actually be worth in excess of £5m. However, its value will depend entirely on whether it can be fully authenticated by art historians and on its condition - it is known that the canvas was relined and there was some dirt on the surface.
Little is known about the provenance of the painting other than that it was bought by the vendor at the contents sale of Glen House in Great Glen in 1974, two years after the death
of its owner, Colonel John Puxley White.
By Alex Capon