Rare masterpiece found at Newstead’s Antique’s Roadshow

Fiona Bruce and owner Father Jamie MacLeod with the restored Van Dyck painting.
Fiona Bruce and owner Father Jamie MacLeod with the restored Van Dyck painting.

A rare portrait which was brought to the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow when the programme was filmed at Newstead Abbey has become the most valuable painting ever to be identified on the long-running show.

Derbyshire priest Father Jamie MacLeod bought the portrait for £400 several years ago, but it has now been revealed to be an original Anthony Van Dyck worth a massive £400,000.

Father Jamie, who bought the painting from an antiques shop in Cheshire to hang in his home, now intends to sell it to raise money to put towards some new church bells.

“It’s been an emotional experience and it’s such great news,” he said.

The Roadshow visited Newstead Abbey back in June 2012 and it was then that Father Jamie stopped to chat to presenter Fiona Bruce and showed her the portrait.

She was aware it had been dismissed as a copy, but at that time Fiona was also making a programme about Van Dyck and thought this painting had the distinctive brush strokes of one of his genuine works.

Fiona suggested art expert Philip Mould take a look at the painting and, agreeing with her assessment, he sent it for careful restoration.

After weeks of painstaking cleaning and the removal of a top coat of 18th century paint which was covering the original, Dr Christopher Brown, director of the Ashmolean museum in Oxford, and one of the world authorities on Van Dyck, verified the painting’s authenticity.

Fiona said: “It’s everyone’s dream to spot a hidden masterpiece - I’m thrilled that my hunch paid off.

“To discover a genuine Van Dyck is incredibly exciting. I’m so pleased for Father Jamie.”

Van Dyck was the leading court painter in England under King Charles I and is regarded as one of the masters of 17th Century art.

The portrait is of a Magistrate of Brussels, which it is believed was used to form part of his monumental work in 1634 featuring seven magistrates.

Its £400,000 price tag makes it the most valuable painting to be identified on the 36-year-old television series.

“Discoveries of this type are exceptionally rare,” said Philip Mould.

“The painting’s emergence from beneath layers of paint was dramatic. It’s been revealed as a thrilling example of Van Dyck’s skills of direct observation that made him so great a portrait painter.”

Penny Beniston, Newstead Abbey’s commercial manager, said: “I was extremely proud that this painting was first noticed at Newstead Abbey.

“Fiona Bruce mentioned that she was very excited about an item but couldn’t say too much as it had to be investigated before being broadcasted - but it’s a fantastic find and story.

“The Antiques Roadshow coming to Newstead gave us a real boost both with visitors and publicity.

“This is still being felt now, and today we have had many enquiries, so hopefully long may it last.”