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Hidden masterpiece worth a bundle

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Monday, September 16, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Admit it: You've dreamed of cleaning out the attic/basement/garage and finding hidden treasure that will ensure your place in the lap of luxury. Every once in a while, that dream comes true for someone.

An oil painting that languished in a Norwegian attic from 1908 to 1970 and was thought by the owner to be fake has been verified as an authentic work by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Its sale price could be in the millions: The artist's "Sunflowers" painting fetched a record $39.9 million in a Christie's auction in1987.

The discovered painting is titled "Sunset at Montmajour" and was believed to have been painted in 1888 in Arles, France, where Van Gogh was living at the time. He wrote to his brother Theo that he wasn't fond of the work and that it was "well below what I'd wished to do." In 1908, the Norwegian owner purchased it from an art dealer in Paris and stored it in his attic.

The reason it was believed to be a fake is that it is unsigned, perhaps because the artist was disappointed with it. The current, anonymous owner who purchased it in 1970 from the Norwegian first took it to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 1991, but experts there said it was not authentic.

If at first you don't succeed …

Two years ago, the same owners took it to the museum for the second time and it had been under evaluation by experts until last week when it was declared authentic. The museum's director, Axel Ruger, told The New York Times the work is a major discovery, painted during "the most important period of his life, when he created his substantial masterpieces."

The painting will be on display at the museum for one year beginning Sept. 24. The owner has not indicated what he will do with it after that, but one art dealer told The New York Times that although he couldn't predict what the masterpiece might be worth if it were put up for sale, it would likely be "in the tens of millions and quite a few of them."

Have you found any hidden treasures in your home?

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