Massachusetts

New England woman's $4 thrift store find was an N.C. Wyeth painting worth $191K

The painting was one of four illustrations that American artist N.C. Wyeth contributed to a 1939 edition of Helen Hunt Jackson's book "Ramona"

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A New England woman's $4 thrift store purchase helped solve a decades-old art mystery - and made her more than $100,000 richer.

According to the Bonhams Skinner auction house, the painting was one of four illustrations that American artist N.C. Wyeth contributed to a 1939 edition of Helen Hunt Jackson's book "Ramona." It was sold at an antique shop in Manchester, N.H., to the buyer who brought it to Bonham Skinner. It sold for $191,000 in Marlborough, Mass.

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The discovery came as a great excitement to the team at the Brandywine Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pa., the foremost experts on Wyeth who offer tours of NC's perfectly preserved studio,

"The seller tried to learn more about the painting, not knowing she had an original Wyeth. She posted a photo on Facebook," explained Amanda Burdan, senior curator at the museum.

"The day she posted it on Facebook I had a number of people contacting me you have to look at this page you have to look at this post," she said. "And that's when a lot of the people I know, associated to the museum saw it and said this one has potential.

The museum had a photo slide of the original sketch that Wyeth would have used to project onto the canvas to create the painting. The painting was signed, but a real hint of its authenticity was the canvas itself. Wyeth used a specific brand of panels - Renaissance panels - made by an art supply company in Philadelphia. The painting found in New Hampshire still had its label.

As to how the valuable work wound up at a thrift store? Bonham Skinner speculates that it may have been gifted by the Little, Brown and Company publishers to someone involved in the book's publishing, then fell through the cracks.

Wyeth created four illustrations for the book - two remain lost to the art world, at least for now.

NBC10 Philadelphia's Tim Furlong contributed to this report.

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