Titian Painting Discovered In A Plastic Bag Sells For $22.3 Million


A twice-stolen painting by Italian Renaissance master Titian, which was once found in a plastic bag at a bus stop in London, sold for $22.3 million at auction on Tuesday.

“The Rest on the Flight into Egypt” went under the hammer at Christie’s in London with an estimate of £15 million-£25 million ($19 million-$32 million) and ultimately fetched £17.5 million ($22.3 million) – the highest price ever achieved at auction for a work by the artist, Christie’s said in a statement on its website.

The painting depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph resting on their way to Egypt after learning that Herod, King of Judea, wanted to kill the young Christ.

Titian, whose real name was Tiziano Vecellio, made the work in the first decade of the 16th century, at the beginning of his career.

Measuring just 18.25 inches by 24.75 inches (46.2 centimeters x 62.9 centimeters), the painting is tiny compared with some of the massive works for which Titian became known later in his life.

The oil-on-canvas work has a remarkable history.

After changing hands among various European aristocrats, the painting was looted by Napoleonic troops during the French occupation of Vienna in 1809 and taken to Paris.

It was returned to Vienna in 1815 and again moved through private collections before ending up with John Alexander Thynne, 4th Marquess of Bath, in Wiltshire, England.

In 1995, it was stolen from Longleat, the home of Thynne’s descendants, and disappeared for seven years, before it was found at a bus stop in London by art detective Charles Hill.

The auction result is “a tribute to the impeccable provenance and quiet beauty of this sublime early masterpiece by Titian, which is one of the most poetic products of the artist’s youth,” Orlando Rock, chairman of Christie’s UK, said in the statement.

“This picture has captured the imaginations of audiences for more than half a millennia and will no doubt continue to do so,” he added.

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