A small British art gallery has managed to buy a Chagall painting worth hundreds of thousands of pounds for a tiny percentage of its estimated value after spotting it on sale at a Paris auction, according to The Times. The London Jewish Museum of Art bought the work in a secret operation designed to avoid alerting the world’s big galleries to the existence of the painting. If they had taken part, they would have bid the price up far beyond the museum’s budget.
Only now has the museum disclosed its purchase in October of Marc Chagall’s previously unknown 1945 work Apocalypse in Lilac, Capriccio, for $42,560. The picture is insured for $640,000, although some experts believe it could be worth more than $1.6 million.
It did not announce the purchase earlier because it did not want to alert the French authorities to the full significance of the work, possibly prompting them to refuse it an export license.
The painting will be unveiled at the Osborne Samuel gallery in Mayfair, London, this week. The 1945 gouache—painted using thickened watercolors—is one of a small series of works by Chagall using the crucifixion to represent the persecution of Jews in the second world war and is the only one of them to come on to the market. However, its importance was apparently not recognized when it was put into a sale at Tajan, a leading French auction house.