A painting that hung for years in a New Jersey family’s dining room and drew scorn from those at the dinner table turned out to be a Rembrandt that sold for millions of dollars at an auction.
Brothers Ned, Roger, and Steven Landau from Teaneck were going through items in their mother’s home after she passed away while preparing to divide up her estate when they noticed the painting.
“It was of a woman passed out in a chair, and two men trying to revive her with smelling salts. As a kid, I thought, ‘Why did we have a painting like that in our dining room?'” Ned Laundau told Jamie Colby, host of the Fox Business program Strange Inheritance, on Monday night’s episode of the show.
The three brothers found the reviled painting among other items, such as a silver tea set and an old ping-pong table. After going through the items, they decided to hold a garage sale to sell some things and take the other items to an auction house.
“We had a garage sale, but there were a few things like the china and silver that looked very nice and we thought, well, we don’t really want to just give them away,” Ned told Colby.
When the trio approached Antiques Roadshow appraiser John Nye to estimate the value of their items, Nye told them that the “unremarkable” painting of the woman with smelling salts would fetch a couple of hundred dollars at auction.
The Landaus, who thought the painting would have no real value, skipped the estate auction thinking their items would not fetch much money.
A French buyer eventually bought the painting for $1.1 million and then sold it later for millions more to a collector after authenticating the purchase.
“They sold it for an estimated $4 million,” Colby told NorthJersey.com. “But the family didn’t get that. That went to the people smart enough to track it down.”
The German bidder who eventually bought the piece explained to the auction house why it had so much value.
“It was a Rembrandt. I’ve been looking for this painting my whole adult professional career,” said the German bidder, who was a collector looking for the fourth painting in a lost series of Rembrandt’s works on the five senses.
The piece, titled “The Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of the Sense of Smell)” was one of the Dutch painter’s earliest works from the 1600s. It was created around 1624 when the artist was in his teenage years and was one of five paintings depicting the five senses.