As one of the greatest artists to emerge from the German Renaissance, painter and printmaker Albrecht Dürer created works that are today worth hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars. But one collector, The Guardian reports, managed to buy a lost work by Dürer for only a few euros at a secondhand market in Sarrebourg, France. Instead of cashing in on the serendipitous find, the lucky customer donated it to the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, an art museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
Dated 1520, the work is a copperplate engraving titled Maria Crowned by an Angel. It depicts the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus as an angel places a crown on her head.
The finder—an unidentified retired French archaeologist—discovered the engraving in a flea market stall. The seller had reportedly cleared the work out of one of the town’s houses. Long ago, it had belonged to one of Sarrebourg’s deputy mayors.
The market vendor was unaware of the engraving’s true value. But the archaeologist noticed the Staatsgalerie’s stamp on the back, The Telegraph reports, and found it in a database of missing works. Last week, he and his wife personally traveled to the museum to return the work—but he decided to keep the donation anonymous.
Naturally, the Staatsgalerie was thrilled. The engraving had disappeared sometime around the end of World War II and was considered lost for decades. Experts believe the artwork arrived in France sometime after 1945, artnet News reports. It’s still in good condition—probably because its previous owners wrapped it in paper to preserve it.
“We are very grateful that, after more than 70 years, the work came to the hands of an art lover who did not keep his valuable find for themselves, but returned it to the public instead,” the museum’s director Christiane Lange said in a statement on Thursday, quoted by artnet News.
[h/t The Guardian]
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