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Lost Painting Found At A Thrift Store

September 1, 2023
A young woman standing to the right, speaking to a seated older woman all in black, with the beige background of a stucco wall featuring a statue of the Virgin Mary behind them

Ramona and Señora Moreno by N.C. Wyeth

I’ve written about works by famous artists being rediscovered in some unusual places, or at least where people least expect. Whether it’s on the wall of your family home, tucked away in storage, behind a door, or in a criminal gang’s loot, sometimes lost masterworks can show up in the most unpredictable places. This time, it was a thrift store in New Hampshire. A woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, was looking for old frames at the Manchester, New Hampshire thrift store Saver. She came across a painting in its frame and bought it for $4. She hung it in her house for several years and eventually posted images on Facebook. Upon seeing it, an art curator from Maine drove several hours to see the work in person, recognizing the image as one of the N.C. Wyeth illustrations for the 1939 edition of Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona.

When she saw it in person, curator Lauren Lewis confirmed the oil-on-panel painting was the original Wyeth work upon which the Ramona illustrations were based. Christine Podmaniczky, curator of the Brandywine River Museum known for its collections of Wyeth family works, joined Lewis in her original confirmation. The painting in question shows the title character interacting with her stepmother Señora Moreno, and was used for the book’s frontispiece. The work will be featured at Bonhams Skinner’s American art auction in Marlborough, Massachusetts, on September 19th, with the house specialists assigning at a $150,000-$250,000 estimate range. This will likely place it among the sale’s top lots, alongside a portrait by Robert Henri.