A scaled portrait of Frédéric Chopin bought at a flea market in Poland was hung modestly in a private house for almost three decades before an expert dates the painting to the 19th century, when the Polish piano composer lived.
Now restored and in a gilded frame, the small painting resides in a bank safe somewhere in eastern Poland while its owners negotiate their next steps, including a public display.
News of the artwork’s existence broke this week as Warsaw hosted the 18th Frederic Chopin Piano Competition, an international event known for launching the careers of world-class pianists. The contest runs until October 23.
Dariusz Markowski, professor at Nicolaus Copernicus University, the art expert who examined and restored the portrait last year, says it has significant historical and emotional value, but he refrained from estimating in what price it could sell for.
The painting measures 29.5 centimeters by 23.3 centimeters (11.5 inches by 9 inches.) Using advanced methods, Markowski programmed his creation in the mid-19th century based on the materials and pigments used, as well as the extent of aging and damage.
But it is not possible today to specify the exact year of its origin, and it will be difficult to identify who painted it because only the first name of the artist, Alfred, is preserved, has it. He specifies.
“It’s obviously Chopin, but I can’t say if he posed for this portrait or if it was painted from another painting,” said Markowski, director of the conservation and restoration department of modern art from Torun University.
“We don’t know anything about its history or for whom it was painted,” he told The Associated Press. “It was in a very bad condition, and I’m really happy that works like this can be saved.”
Chopin was born in 1810 in a mansion in Zelazowa Wola, a village near Warsaw, to a Polish mother and a French father. He left Poland at the age of 19 to deepen his musical training in Vienna and then in Paris, where he settled, composed, gave concerts and taught the piano.
He died in Paris on October 17, 1849 and is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery, but his heart is kept at the Sainte-Croix Church in Warsaw, where celebrations mark the anniversaries of his birth and death.
An art connoisseur spotted the portrait Markowski calls “a real curiosity” at a flea market near Lublin in the early 1990s. Decades later, a financial situation prompted the family to seek a professional appraisal. which led them to the academic expert.
A family member says it is “extraordinary” that the painting survived around 170 years of historic turmoil and ended up in a flea market. He says the family’s recent attention to the portrait has led him to study Chopin’s life and music.