It was a large format, 4ft 10in x 6ft 2in (1.37 x 1.87m), canvas titled The Offering to Ceres by Dirck van Baburen.
Over the centuries, the painting has been the subject of extensive research and according to current opinion it was executed in 1620 or 1621, soon after Baburen returned to Utrecht from Rome. At the time, he drew heavily on the work of Caravaggio, whose artistic spirit inhabits the painting.
The motif he chose is a rare one, depicting a group of men and women making offerings to Ceres, the god of the harvest. The secured provenance of the painting can be traced back through various French collections to the early 18th century. Before that, it is thought to have probably been a painting mentioned a late 17th century inventory of works belonging to a deceased French collector.
What is undisputed is the fact that almost 10 years ago it was purchased in London for £578,500 and was now expected to bring SFr500,000-800,000.
After fierce international bidding, it was knocked down to a private collector for SFr1.2m (£1.07m), a new record for the artist surpassing that set by Sotheby’s in New York in January 2020 at $850,000; in those days that was almost £653,000.
£1 = SFr1.12