A Painting Estimated at $6,000 at a Paris Auction House Just Sold for More Than $600,000—and May Be the Work of a Famous Old Master

It has been speculated that the work is by the Baroque master Guercino.

Painting sold at the auction house Chayette & Cheval on November 25th, 2022, with a possible attribution to the Italian Baroque painter Guercino. Image courtesy of Chayette & Cheval.

A possible sleeper Guercino painting has far surpassed its €5,000-6,000 ($5,175-6,200) estimate to fetch a dizzying hammer price of €590,000 ($610,000).

Sold on November 25 at Chayette and Cheval in Paris, Moses is a dramatic portrayal of the biblical figure with his palms raised upward. It was attributed to an anonymous follower of Guido Reni belonging to the 17th -century Bolognese School.

The catalogue notes went on to explain that the Italian Baroque painter Francesco Barbieri, more commonly known as Guercino, had also been considered as a possible author of the work. This was partly on the basis that a copy of the work by his pupil Benedetto Zalone was sold at Franco Semenzato in Venice in 2001. Offered with a 70,000,000-110,000,000 lira estimate ($31,770 to $49,900), the copy failed to sell.

The catalogue also likened the work to Guercino’s Head of an old Man at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

It now seems likely that the unknown buyer had strong reasons to believe that Chayette and Cheval had misidentified, and therefore greatly undervalued, the work.

CEO of Colnaghi gallery Jorge Coll and his colleague Alice Da Costa compared the work to the Baroque artist’s Elijah fed by Ravens at the National Gallery in London and told Artnet News that they felt confident that the painting could indeed be attributed to Guercino.

“From what I can see in the photograph, the quality and the condition is pretty good so I do understand the hammer price,” said Coll.

The auction house declined to comment on the attribution, but auctioneer Charlotte van Gaver confirmed to Artnet News that the work had sparked a biding war, adding that the staggering result was “the fruit of our work.”

“It is undeniable that auction houses such as Chayette and Cheval guarantee “healthy” provenances and that “stirs up” the market and international auctions, she said. “We are very happy that this discovery leads to such a great result.”

The more than half-million-dollar hammer price is impressive, but the buyer may still stand to make a large profit.

One painting by Guercino belonging to the Sopranos actor Federico Castelluccio was valued at $10 million. In 2012, a dealer snapped up another sleeper Guercino at Doyle New York and may have made several millions selling it on in 2020.

According to the Artnet Price Database, the artist’s record at auction is £5.19 million ($7.86 million), achieved at Christie’s London in 2010 for the oil painting King David.

“This Bolognese period can be very expensive and Guercino is one of the top artists,” noted Coll. “This is top quality and the fact that it’s a rediscovery excites people even more.”

“Most likely it’s been bought by a dealer and you might see it at TEFAF for a million,” he added. “Unfortunately I didn’t see it. I don’t know if I would have bid half a million but I definitely would have pushed the bids up from $5,000 to several hundred.”

“In the Old Master world we don’t have so many top quality paintings come on the market. When they do, you can see a desire for these paintings so that’s very positive for us.”

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