The New York Times is calling it "one of the most extraordinary discoveries of Renaissance artwork in years," a find made all the more remarkable because it fell into a man's hands for just $30. That's how much an unidentified man spent in 2016 on the small drawing of the Virgin Mary and child at a Massachusetts estate sale. It's now thought to be a drawing by Albrecht Dürer, a famed German artist whose drawings were assumed to all be accounted for, with the last "new" one found in 1932. The path between that sale and what happened last week at the British Museum in London—a panel of experts deemed it a Dürer drawing—involved a rare-book purveyor in Massachusetts who is friends with the estate-goer, had seen the drawing, and had noted the initials "AD" at the bottom.
Artnet reports the man, suspecting it was possibly a work by Dürer, had taken it to a few experts, only to be told he was wrong. Then the twist of fate: In 2019, Boston art dealer Clifford Schorer was headed to a retirement party for the head of the Yale Center for British Art, forgot his gift, Googled rare book dealers, and found Brainerd Phillipson's shop. After he purchased some books, Phillipson mentioned the possibility of his friend owning a Dürer drawing, reports the Boston Globe. As the Times explains, Schorer dismissed it as a likely engraving, which are more plentiful. "As someone who knows Albrecht Dürer in and out, it’s impossible," he advised.
But 11 days later, when he was texted photos of the work, he got in the car and was at the man's house within the hour to examine it. "It was either a masterpiece or the greatest forgery I had ever seen," said Schorer; he made a deal with the man to sell the drawing. The Times details Schorer's two-year quest to authenticate the drawing, which has taken him around the globe and involved a few detractors (one researcher in Austria believes it was made by Dürer apprentice Hans Baldung). It's expected to go on sale in 2022 with an eight-figure price tag, with some suggesting it could fetch as much as $50 million. (Read more art stories.)