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How To Get Rich? Find A Lost Renaissance Masterpiece

February 4, 2022
Renaissance drawing of a seated woman and her baby - Albrecht Dürer

The Lost Dürer Drawing

A freshly-discovered masterwork has ended its stay in New York.

Three years ago, Clifford Schorer from Massachusetts bought what he thought was just an old drawing. It’s a nice image of a seated woman holding her baby, done using pen-on-paper with an interesting monogram of the initials AD just below it. Schorer actually admitted to initially planning on giving it away. As he tells it, he bought the drawing in hopes of finding a gift for a retirement party. He heard from a bookseller that someone had bought a nice drawing for $30 at the estate sale of a local architect. But I don’t think anyone could have expected that what he bought for $30 then, is now estimated to be worth millions. That AD monogram just so happened to be the signature of the German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer. And so, some old drawing of a woman and her baby has transformed into a priceless Madonna and Child. Schorer, who once served as president of the Worcester Art Museum, stated that he brought it to several different experts to have it authenticated as a genuine Dürer work, only to receive rejections from everyone he took it to. I suppose the story of how he found it along with its good condition may have led some to reject it outright. It wasn’t until the drawing was brought to the London gallery Agnew’s that it was properly authenticated. Christoph Metzger, curator of Vienna’s Albertina Museum, and Giulia Bartrum, head of German prints at the British Museum, have since confirmed the drawing’s authenticity. The confirming evidence came when specialists held the paper up to a light and saw a watermark in the shape of a trident and a small circle. This is known as the Trident and the Ring, and is one of the known watermarks found in Albrecht Dürer’s works.

The drawing is estimated to have been created around 1503, and is most likely a study for one of Dürer’s watercolors known as Virgin Among a Multitude of Animals. That painting, perhaps coincidentally, currently hangs in the Albertina Museum. But between January 21st and 29th, the drawing, now commonly known as Virgin and Child with a Flower on a Grassy Bank, enjoyed a stay at the Colnaghi Gallery on East 70th Street for the 2022 Master Drawings New York exhibition. Agnew’s gallery director Anthony Crichton-Stuart stated that the Grassy Bank Virgin is the first Dürer work of comparable quality to be discovered in 45 years. The all-time auction record for a Northern European drawing is Lucas van Leyden’s study of a young man that sold for £11.48 million (or $14.6 million) at Christie’s London in 2018. But some have predicted the newly-discovered Dürer would fetch far more if it were to ever come up at auction – in the $50 million range. Even though the Old Masters market isn’t what it once was, the story behind the Grassy Bank Virgin may add enough to the drawing to lead it to set a new record… one day.