Friday, February 1st, 2008
Retired manuscripts curator Jean Preston lived in an unassuming brick row house, ate tv dinners and took the bus when she needed to go somewhere. After her death in 2006, they found that she’d been living with $8 million of rare art on the walls, in the closet, on the back of the doors.
Among the treasures were two paintings by Fra Angelico, the 15th century Italian Renaissance master, that were the missing pieces of an eight-part altar decoration. [...]
Hanging in the kitchen was a 19th century watercolour by pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and in the sitting room, above an electric fire, a work by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.[...]
Another hidden treasure was a rare edition of the works of Chaucer that was too big to fit on Preston’s bookshelf and was found buried in a wardrobe. It sold for nearly $150,000.
The Fra Angelicos are going home to Florence for the first time since they were snatched out of the altar piece of the church of San Marco during the Napoleonic wars. A private collector bought them at auction, but he’s expected to give them to the Uffizi Gallery. The Rossetti “Hamlet and Ophelia” and Burne-Jones’ “Music” are headed for the Ashmolean Museum.