A peel-off portrait of Frederic Chopin, bought at a flea market in Poland, hung modestly in a private home for nearly three decades, after an expert dated the painting to the 19th century, when Polish piano musicians lived .
Now restored and in a gilded frame, the small painting resides in a bank vault somewhere in eastern Poland, while its owners negotiate their next steps, including on public display.
News of the artwork’s existence broke this week as Warsaw hosted the 18th Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition, an international event known for launching the careers of world-class pianists. The competition runs until 23 October.
Nicolaus Copernicus University professor Darius Markowski, the art expert who examined and restored the painting last year, says it has significant historical and sentimental value, but he refrained from speculating what it might sell for. .
The painting measures 29.5 cm by 23.3 cm (11.5 in by 9 in). Using advanced methods, Markovsky timed its manufacture in the mid-19th century based on the materials and pigments used and the extent of aging and damage.
But it is no longer possible to pinpoint its exact year of origin, and it would be difficult to identify who painted it because only the artist’s first name, Alfred, is preserved, he said.
“It’s obviously Chopin, but I can’t say whether he posed for this portrait or whether it was painted from another portrait,” said Markowski, principal of the Torun University’s Department of Conservation and Restoration of Modern Art. he said.
“We don’t know anything about its history or who it was painted for,” he told the Associated Press. “It was in very poor condition, and I’m really glad an artwork like this could be saved.”
Chopin was born in a manor house in elazów Wola, a village near Warsaw, in 1810 to a Polish mother and a French father. He left Poland at the age of 19 to expand his musical education in Vienna and then in Paris, where he settled, composed, gave concerts and taught piano.
He died in Paris on October 17, 1849, and is buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery, but his heart is kept in the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw, where the anniversaries of his birth and death are celebrated.
An art connoisseur saw a painting that Markovsky called “a genuine curiosity” at a flea market near Lublin in the early 1990s. Decades later, a financial situation prompted the family to seek a professional evaluation, which took them to a university specialist.
A family member says it is “extraordinary” that the painting survived nearly 170 years of historical turmoil and ended up at a flea market. He says the recent attention from the family inspired him to study Chopin’s life and music.