ARTS & CULTURE

Canaletto Found In Storage: Curator Discovers An 18th Century Masterpiece Hidden At Denver Art Museum (VIDEO)

04/01/2013 02:49 pm 14:49:05 | Updated Apr 02, 2013

The LA Times provided us with yet another friendly reminder why we should all clean out our basements from time to time -- you may stumble upon an 18th century masterpiece.

Curator Timothy Standring was conducting a routine inventory at the Denver Museum when he stumbled upon a discolored canvas coated in grime. The work, Standring recalled, looked as if it had been "in someone's home who smoked Marlboros for 50 years." And even still, there was something about the painting that caught Standring's eye; as Standring says in the video above: "It was my OMG moment."

canaletto storage

The work, donated from a local collector, was titled "The Molo from the Bacino di San Marco, Venice" and attributed to the studio of Italian painter Giovanni Antonio Canal, aka Canaletto. The piece was assumed to be the work of a student in the studio and was left to collect dust in the museum basement, until Stranding suspected it was by the master, not his apprentice.

To get an expert opinion, the curator ventured to London to speak with Canaletto scholar Charles Beddington. In the video above, Beddington explains his reaction to the work from the moment he saw it online.

"That particular, precise composition is unknown in Canaletto's work. The full, sort of symmetrical view of the Piazette is something that Luca Carlevarijs, his predecessor, certainly painted. But until now there was no known example of Canaletto."

Beddington was certain that the work was indeed a Canaletto, but the wayward painting's journey was far from over. Conservator James Squires went to work on the damaged piece, which Beddington dated to 1724. Squires blogged about the extensive and time consuming restoration process. After over 100 hours, the work was finally presentable.

The exact price of this newly cleaned canvas remains unknown, but a work from the same artist sold for $17.5 million in 2005 at auction.

Read personal accounts from the key players of the narrative, from curator to conservator, on the Denver Art Museum website here.

See more dramatic art finds in the slideshow below and get on that spring cleaning!

The Most Dramatic Art Finds Of 2012

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