Local collector pays $600 for priceless masterpiece

Dan Levy
Updated: September 26, 2019 06:43 PM
Created: September 26, 2019 01:00 AM

ALBANY - Have you ever tuned into "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS and wondered if people really do find priceless treasures in their attic or garage? As it turns out, a local man found out that it really does happen. In fact, he struck it rich with an old oil painting.

Albert Roberts, 87, has been collecting art since he was 10-years old. He considers himself an expert in finding "orphaned art", which is art that's been neglected, overlooked, or lost in the shuffle of the art world in different counties.


Several years ago, Roberts paid $600 for a painting at an auction house in Hudson, New York.

It was just a sketch, or a rough draft of what later became a masterpiece by renowned Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyke, one of the most influential painters of the 17th century.

Van Dyke was an artistic prodigy who created his Saint Jerome portrait when he was just 19 years old.

"Many of the paintings (I buy) are rejects," he said. "But every painting I buy gets a careful examination and then I feel a responsibility to house it, which is a bit of a problem because I have 2,000 paintings."

After years of investigation, scholars have confirmed that Van Dyke was indeed the artist who had created the sketch purchased by Roberts.

"I suppose it's not every day that a painting picked up for $600 with bird droppings on the back turns out to be a masterpiece of European Art," he stated.

In his search for "orphaned art," Roberts has developed a method for examining works of art to determine attribution, a method he calls "sophisticated, rigorous, and highly unorthodox."

"When (findings like this) do occur, it usually is international news," said Tammis Groft, Executive Director of the Albany Institute of History & Art, where the original Van Dyke sketch is currently on display. "To discover a painting that has not been seen probably by the public for over 400 years, and not knowing it existed or where it was is really quite remarkable."

The sketch will be on view to the public in the museum's Christine & George R. Hearst III Gallery until Sunday October 6, 2019.

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