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Missing Fra Angelico Panels Found in Spare Room

In 1439, Fra Angelico, a monk and well respected Renaissance artist, painted two panels depicting a pair of medieval saints. They were part of the alter of the convent and church in San Marco, Italy. In all, there were eight panels in the alterpiece. The paintings were dispersed during the Napolenoic wars. Since then, six of the panels have been found but the two shown to the left were missing until recently and their whereabouts was considered one of the great art mysteries.

Moving forward in time to the the 1960s, a young Jean Preston was employed in California as a manuscript curator and saw two panels that she adored. Using all of her charm, she convinced her art collector father to purchase the paintings. They were bought for a few hundred pounds. From The Independent:

Jean bought the paintings because she thought they were rather nice. Someone came in with a box of things they wanted to get rid of. None wanted them but she was a medievalist and actually thought that they were quite nice. When I used to stay with her I slept on a sofa bed underneath the paintings. Who would have thought she had the equivalent of a winning lottery ticket in her spare room all these years?

The paintings were hung in the retired 77 year old Ms. Preston’s home behind the door to the guest bedroom.

From The Independent: 

Fra Angelico was originally commissioned by Cosimo De Medici, one of the greatest art patrons of the Italian Renaissance, to create an altarpiece for the high altar at the church and convent of San Marco in Florence, where he lived.

The paintings were recognized shortly before the death of Ms. Preston and are expected to bring over $2 million at auction. Was Ms. Preston dismayed with her fortuned hanging on the walls of her spare room unrecognized all of these years? According to Michael Liversidge as quoted in The Independent:

“She knew they were good paintings but had no idea what they were. When I told her the news, she was pleased that her “eye” had been correct,” he said.

[tags]Fra Angelico, medieval art, renaissance art, art mystery[/tags]