Plenty of people would've passed by the art print in the dusty, old frame at Hotline Pink Thrift Shop in Kitty Hawk, NC. But Wendy Hawkins, who volunteers at the store twice a week, thought it looked rather unique, sitting on the floor, waiting to be sorted. "I saw this, with a bunch of other paintings lined up on the floor, and I said 'This is old, this is something special,'" she tells WAVY. She was right. After consulting with a local art expert late last year, Hawkins discovered the donated artwork, which would've been priced at no more than $50, was an original 1950s woodcut print by Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. Best known for his paintings of melting clocks, the artist had signed Purgatory Canto 32—part of a series of 100 illustrations depicting Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy—not once, but twice, reports NPR.
The Italian government initially commissioned the series in honor of Dante's birthday but abandoned the project as Italians expressed outrage over a Spaniard being given the commission, per NPR. Dalí nevertheless persisted, creating 100 watercolor paintings—representing the 100 verses of The Divine Comedy—which were then turned into wood engravings. Local art expert Melanie Smith tells NPR she spent more than a week authenticating Purgatory Canto 32, which shows a woman in blue next to a man in red, and features a wood stamp signature in addition to a handwritten one in purple pencil. After all, "it is very rare to find something like this at a thrift store." It's unclear who donated the print, which has since been sold for $1,200. CNN reports proceeds will be used for the Outer Banks Hotline nonprofit's shelter for abuse victims. (Read more Salvador Dali stories.)