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When they bought it for £5,170 two decades ago, the new owners thought there was more to the grubby garden sculpture than met their appreciative eye.

Now their hunch has been proven true, as the work has been identified as a 200-year-old missing masterpiece by Antonio Canova – and valued at up to £8million.

Recumbent Magdalene was commissioned in 1819 by then prime minister Lord Liverpool for 1,200 guineas (£1,260, worth about £110,000 today). It was one of the Italian master’s last works.

An art handler tends to a rediscovered lost masterpiece, 'Recumbent Magdalene', by Antonio Canova, on show at Christie's in central London before being offered for sale by the auction house on Thursday

An art handler tends to a rediscovered lost masterpiece, 'Recumbent Magdalene', by Antonio Canova, on show at Christie's in central London before being offered for sale by the auction house on Thursday

An art handler tends to a rediscovered lost masterpiece, ‘Recumbent Magdalene’, by Antonio Canova, on show at Christie’s in central London before being offered for sale by the auction house on Thursday

When they bought it for £5,170 two decades ago, the new owners thought there was more to the grubby garden sculpture than met their appreciative eye

When they bought it for £5,170 two decades ago, the new owners thought there was more to the grubby garden sculpture than met their appreciative eye

When they bought it for £5,170 two decades ago, the new owners thought there was more to the grubby garden sculpture than met their appreciative eye

The 6ft-long marble sculpture was sold by Lord Liverpool’s family more than 20 years after his death, then kept at a stately home until a disastrous fire and ended up in the garden of an eccentric female entrepreneur in Kensington, west London. 

It was sold in the 1960s and then again to its current owners, who wish to remain anonymous.

They had its provenance checked by specialists after hearing rumours it might be a Canova and restored to its former glory in an eight-month process costing ‘thousands’.

The work has been identified as a 200-year-old missing masterpiece by Antonio Canova (pictured)¿ and valued at up to £8million

The work has been identified as a 200-year-old missing masterpiece by Antonio Canova (pictured)¿ and valued at up to £8million

The work has been identified as a 200-year-old missing masterpiece by Antonio Canova (pictured)– and valued at up to £8million

Canova expert Dr Mario Guderzo said it was a ‘miracle’ the sculpture had been found after scholars spent decades looking for it. 

He said: ‘[It] brings to a conclusion a very particular story worthy of a novel, of a marble of significant historical value and great aesthetic beauty produced by Canova in the final years of his artistic activity.’ 

Recumbent Magdalene will be sold at Christie’s in London on July 7. It will be on view there tomorrow and Sunday before going on tour to New York and Hong Kong.

Source: DailyMail

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