The artwork called “Still Life” was kept for many years in what is now a museum known as Woodford Academy in the Blue Mountains, in New South Wales (NSW).
“It is a rare and hugely exciting moment,” said Julian Bickersteth, project coordinator and CEO of International Conservation Services, the company undertaking the restoration work, in a press release Sunday.
The painting “Still Life” before it underwent restorative treatment. Credit: National Trust of Australia
The painting features a table setting of white tablecloth laid with food consisting of a mince pie, nuts and a bread roll, and a silver goblet and glassware.
The work is being attributed to Gerrit Willemsz. Heda, son of the famous Dutch 17th century still life painter Willem Claesz. Heda, who is recognized as one of the great masters of the Dutch Golden Age.
But experts are still investigating the origins of “Still Life.”
According to the press release, Gerrit Willemsz. Heda’s signature is very similar to that of his father and his paintings were attributed to his father until 1945. Suggestions that it might be a father-and-son collaborative piece are being investigated.
A spokeswoman for the trust said the value of the artwork is still undergoing assessment, but experts believe it could be worth millions of Australian dollars. Willem Claesz. Heda’s works are typically valued at around $4 to $5 million Australian dollars ($2.9 to $3.7 million), the spokeswoman added.
A signature to authenticate the artist was found on the artwork. Credit: National Trust of Australia
“To find an authentic 17th century painting in my storeroom at the National Trust was beyond exciting — it left me breathless,” said National Trust collections manager Rebecca Pinchin in the press release.
“To find the signature of the artist felt like a one in a million chance. This is a remarkable story of discovery, which has taken us on a journey across a number of years, piecing together and validating the work through expert advice and technology.”
It is possible that the artwork was introduced to the house in Woodford by Alfred Fairfax, nephew of James Fairfax, the founder of the Sydney Morning Herald, according to the press release.
He purchased the building in 1868 — a time when Dutch works and auctions featuring “old masters” were particularly popular, the trust added.
The painting will be on display as part of the 2022 Australian Heritage Festival at Woodford Academy, Blue Mountains, on May 14.
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