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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
Lost altar paintings go for 1.7m
Miss Preston bought the two paintings for about 200

Two lost Renaissance paintings found in an academic's spare bedroom have sold for 1.7m at auction.

The altar panels, painted by Italian monk Fra Angelico in 1439, disappeared after the altar was destroyed in the Napoleonic wars.

A former Bristol University art history expert found the panels in November hanging behind a door in the Oxford home of former academic, Jean Preston.

They were sold by Duke's of Dorchester in Dorset on Thursday.

'Quite breathtaking'

The two small works were originally part of the altarpiece of the church of St Marco in Florence, which was broken up during the Napoleonic wars.

Six of the eight panels had been found and experts said the location of the remaining two had been one of the art world's great mysteries.

Michael Liversidge, a family friend and former head of the History of Art department at the University of Bristol, identified the masterpieces, which were hanging behind a door in a spare room at the home of Miss Preston, who died earlier this year aged 77.

He said Miss Preston had always enjoyed the two small, modest portraits of saints in medieval clothing.

The house contained other art treasures, including a number of Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces, but the family were unaware of the significance of the two small paintings in the bedroom.

Art experts from around the world have been stunned at the discovery of the missing pair.

Laurence Kanter, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and a leading expert on Fra Angelico, said it was "very exciting" while Dillian Gordon, of the National Gallery in London, added: "This is quite breathtaking. It never ceases to amaze me how these things come to light."

Altar paintings could fetch 1m
19 Apr 07 |  Oxfordshire


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