May 2, 2018

A misattributed painting sold by the Met is heading back to auction as a real Rubens with a higher price tag.

The Financial Times has a story on the July auction of a Peter Paul Rubens work previously purchased at a bargain price by someone betting it was a “sleeper”—the industry term for a misattributed work that is estimated far below its actual value. The Metropolitan Museum of Art consigned the portrait of a young girl to Sotheby’s in 2013, and in an Old Masters sale in New York it was attributed to a follower of Rubens, not the artist himself. At the time, it carried an estimate of only $20,000 to $30,000, but five or six bidders who thought the work could be a real Rubens being offered on the cheap pushed the final sale price up to $626,500.
Experts subsequently re-examined and authenticated the piece, saying it was made by the hand of the Flemish master. It will now be sold at Christie's in July, carrying an estimate of between £3 million and £5 million. The Met, however, has denied suffering from seller’s remorse, telling the FT that “the attribution of the picture has been debated in the past and we believe it will continue to be debated.”