A Lower East Side gallery owner was convinced he’d found a one-in-a-million painting — and he was right.
A $71,000 investment that art dealer Christopher Bishop made eight years ago has netted him a roughly a $1 million profit, thanks to a hunch he had about a drawing he spotted at an auction.
When the eagle-eyed New York dealer first noticed the unique 300-year-old painting at an auction, he thought something about it was off.
The sale organizers had labeled it as a Dutch painting and listed for about $4,000, but he suspected they were wrong.
“I had a hunch that it was quite different than what it was labeled,” Bishop told the Daily News Wednesday. “I had seen it in the catalog, and I had picked it out as something that I knew … wasn’t Dutch, and had the potential to be something special.”
He wasn’t the only dealer with suspicions. Others suspected the Dutch painting was actually something else, and the bidding for it got hot. But Bishop, who studied at history at Yale, was determined to get it. He ultimately shelled out about $71,000 for the painting, which bore the title, “Aurora, Goddess of Morning.”
He was confident he could prove the artwork was actually the work of famed 17th-century Italian artist, Guercino, whose larger paintings are often worth millions of dollars.
What he didn’t expect, however, was that it would take so long to make his case.
For years he consulted with experts in Italy, England and the United States. Meanwhile, the artwork spent time in storage, and occasionally in his home.
“When I went to do the research, a piece was missing,” Bishop said. “Usually there are drawings. And I wasn’t able to locate those drawings, so I was at a little bit of an impasse.”
That changed a year ago, when the very drawing he sought popped up at an auction at Sothebys. It was part of the Guercino family collection, but its existence hadn’t been made public before.
“It was quite a serendipitous thing for the drawing to show up,” he said.
He obtained the drawing, which appeared to be a study Guercino did before he actually painted the final work. In July, an expert confirmed the very thing Bishop had believed from the beginning. The artwork was in fact by Guercino, and was painted in 1662.
“Sometimes you have to go with your gut, and that’s what I did,” he said. “It took me some time to prove, to be vindicated, to prove that I was right about the painting all along.”
Bishop pegs the value of the painting at around $1.2 to $1.6 million. The drawing, he noted, is worth about $50,000. Both are for sale, but he hopes they are bought by an institution and remain together.
The painting and the drawing are on display at the Christopher Bishop Fine Art gallery on Madison Ave. and 80th St. until Feb. 15th.