A date for your diaries as a painting by Titian, estimated to be worth as much as £25 million, but once stored in a plastic carrier bag, is coming to London. Painted around 1512, the painting by the Italian artist Titian, Rest on the Flight into Egypt shows Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as they stop to rest during their flight into Egypt.

(c) Christie’s

Over the centuries, the painting has been owned by Dukes, Archdukes and Holy Roman Emperors, looted by Napoleon, and 145 years ago, it was bought by the 4th Marquess of Bath. It’s been in the family home at Longleat ever since.

Except for one infamous moment, when in 1995 it was stolen. It was found seven years later in a carrier bag in Greater London, minus the frame, by a leading art detective of the time – the late Charles Hill, a former Scotland Yard officer. The discovery has been a bit mysterious as it came after a £100,000 reward was offered, and eventiually paid.

You might have guessed from its temporary home in a carrier bag that it’s not a huge painting, at just 2 feet wide.

Despite its diminutive size, it is expected to sell for between £15 and £25 million when it goes up for sale in July.

Ahead of the sale, the painting and other artworks from Christie’s Old Masters Part I sale will be on display in London. Officially, a viewing is for prospective buyers, but auction house viewings are open to everyone and can be treated as free exhibitions of artworks that are very rarely seen outside the homes of the owners.

Andrew Fletcher, Christie’s Global Head of the Old Masters Department commented: “This is the most important work by Titian to come to the auction market in more than a generation and one of the very few masterpieces by the artist remaining in private hands. It is a picture that embodies the revolution in painting made by Titian at the start of the 16th century and is a truly outstanding example of the artist’s pioneering approach to both the use of colour and the representation of the human form in the natural world, the artistic vocabulary that secured his status as the first Venetian painter to achieve fame throughout Europe in his lifetime and his position as one of the greatest painters in the history of Western art.”

Titian’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt will be at Christie’s on King Street Street in central London from Friday 28th June to Tuesday 2nd July 2024.

Christie’s is open 10am to 5pm on Friday, Monday and Tuesday — and from 12pm to 5pm on the Saturday and Sunday.

Unless a museum or gallery buys the painting, it could be the first and last chance you will have to see it.


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