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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
El Greco art discovered in Spain
A 16th Century painting by artist El Greco, valued at 500,000, has been discovered in an envelope in Spain.

The Spanish family that has owned the oil-on-wood portable altarpiece, The Baptism of Christ, since the mid-19th Century, did not know what they had.

It was only discovered when they took it to a routine Christie's valuation.

The auctioneers said it was a "wonderful, vibrant work" and came as a "complete surprise". It will be sold by Christie's in London on 8 December.

El Greco, born in Crete, had a unique style, characterised by elongated forms and bright colours, that inspired 20th Century painters such as Cezanne, Picasso and Jackson Pollock.

It had been in his family since the mid-19th Century and simply been ignored
The Baptism of Christ measures 23.7cm by 18cm and was found when a man living in a small apartment in western Spain responded to an advertisement offering art valuations, Christie's said.

"He obviously didn't realise what he had," a spokesman said. "It had been in his family since the mid-19th Century and simply been ignored."

The auction house says it dates from El Greco's time in Venice, from 1567-70, and is an extremely rare example of his work from that period.

"To discover a painting of such beauty and importance came as a complete surprise," according to the auctioneers.

Polish discovery

"This painting originates from a particularly exciting moment in El Greco's career, when the artist was still developing what became his distinctive style."

The news of its discovery comes just a week after another "lost" El Greco work was put on display in Poland.

Ecstasy of St Francis was discovered in a small church in east Poland during a routine check of historical artefacts in 1964.

But church authorities could not afford to exhibit it until now, and also wanted to hide it from communist authorities.

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