Washington, D.C. auctioneers Sloans & Kenyon found this English period work by the Italian Baroque painter Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) in the basement of a local home.
Mary Magdalene Anointing the Feet of Christ is signed and dated lower right 1713 - at which time Ricci was in England (from 1712 to 1717), seeking large-scale commissions for public and private buildings. Measuring a diminutive 22in x 20in (55 x 50cm), it was probably painted as a sketch to present to a patron.
Another version of this composition (previously at Mortlake Parish Church, London) survives at the Kunsthaus, Zurich while the artist produced a later treatment of the subject for Consul Joseph Smith, a painting, now in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court.
The new discovery - probably acquired by the vendor's family at one of the many local auctions and estate sales they attended - is thought to be the painting recorded as lost in the catalogue raisonné that was once in the collection of Henry Hoare at Stourhead, Wiltshire. It is mentioned by Horace Walpole in 1762 and listed in inventories in 1785.
The picture had been relined, received some restoration and a heavy, uneven varnish obscured some of its finer qualities. Sloans & Kenyon gave it a modest $10,000-$15,000 estimate.
On April 26, 19 telephone bidders (including dealers from London, Monaco, Holland, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France) competed for a full seven minutes up to $145,000 (£103,500) plus 19.5 per cent buyer's premium.
The buyer was identified only as a man from the American East Coast.