A 400-year-old portrait of a royally dressed child from the era of Charles I has fetched £20,000 at auction after it was found hidden in a cottage.
The forgotten painting from 1626 was left out of sight on the back of an open door at a property in Surrey for several decades.
It shows an unknown but well-to-do child, who is about two years old, dressed from head to toe in sumptuous formal wear, making her look like a ‘miniature adult’.
The valuable portrait was uncovered by an antiquarian during a house clearance following the death of its owner – who collected paintings as a hobby.
It is expected to fetch between £18,000 and £20,000 when it goes under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in London on January 28.
A forgotten 400-year-old painting worth up to £20k has been discovered hidden in a Surrey cottage
The Adriaen Verkins painting is up for auction after an antiquities expert discovered it on the back of a door
Chris Kirkham, associate director at Hansons London, said: ‘I was surprised to find such a compelling portrait tucked away.
‘However, I discovered there is a reason for that. The keen collector who acquired it had downsized a few years earlier and brought all his beloved antiques with him.
‘His collection included several paintings that were hung on much smaller walls than they were originally intended for.
‘He was struggling for display space and this little girl in all her glory was hiding behind a door.
“Unfortunately, the collector passed away and this age-old work was forgotten.”
He continued: ‘The seller’s late father had an intellectual appreciation for antiques.
‘When she showed me around the house to assess some of his possessions, she admitted she had forgotten about the portrait.
‘It was blocked from view because the door was almost always left open. I just happened to move it and thank goodness I did.
“It is so important that this portrait goes to auction in January with a guide price of £18,000-£20,000.”
The child wears an elaborate full-length embroidered black and cream dress with beautiful detailing and a stiff wide collar that is edged in lace.
A matching hat fits tightly on her head and she wears a necklace of red beads with a large cross and pearl and matching beads around her wrists.
Her expensive outfit is also enhanced by a silver chain across her body that leads to a beaked object clutched in her hand.
The unknown child wears an elaborate full-length embroidered black and cream dress with beautiful detailing
The seller, who did not want to be named, said: ‘This discovery is all credit to my father. He was an eccentric and a collector of all kinds of antiques and curios.
‘He had a very good eye for unusual objects and art. It offered him a hobby away from his working life as a farmer.
‘We think he may have bought the painting at auction years ago, but can’t be sure.
‘It has been enjoyed and displayed in our family home for years.
“Unfortunately we lost my father and the time must come to part with some items.”
The portrait bears the name Adriaen Verkins, possibly Dutch, and is dated 1626 when Charles I (1600-1649) was king of England, Scotland and Ireland.
He spent money on the arts and invited artists such as Van Dyck and Rubens to work in England.
The portrait will be auctioned with Hansons in January with a guide price of £18,000-£20,000
The Belgian Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) was a Flemish Baroque artist from Brabant who became the leading court painter in England.
He was known for his paintings of royalty and members of noble families including their children.
Fellow Flemish artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), from the Netherlands, was also known for portraits of royalty.
He is considered the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque tradition.
Chris added: ‘It is likely that their work influenced the Baroque portrait we uncovered.
‘Royalty dictates trends and a wealthy family would have commissioned this painting to imitate the great portraits of the time.
“The child’s ornate outfit empathizes with their wealth and status.”
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons London, said: ‘It’s remarkable what we find hidden away in homes – often forgotten and, in this case, behind a door.
‘Collectors fill their homes with so many wonderful items over the decades, it’s easy to lose track of which ones might be of special significance.
‘When you look into this little girl’s eyes, you are transported back to the early 17th century.
‘Fashions of the time for the rich – the poor were in rags – were ostentatious and laden with ornamentation. Jewellery, lace and multiple contrasting materials displayed richness.
‘This portrait is a remarkable find. It’s like a time capsule that offers an insight into the life of a rich child, decked out in all her splendor, centuries ago.’