Next time you plan a garage or yard sale, take a closer look at what you have: it actually might be worth more than a couple of bucks. When a family in southeast England decided to have a clearance sale last year, they didn’t think much of a postcard-size painting of Queen Elizabeth I they found amidst the unwanted items. Officials with England’s National Portrait Gallery now say it dates to around 1590.
“It does show you what is to be found in people’s attics unknown and unrecorded,” says the Gallery’s Dr. Tarnya Cooper.
Elizabeth appears as Paris, holding an apple, alongside the goddesses of marriage, war and love. Paris, also known as Alexander or Alexandros, was a prominent figure in Greek mythology. The painting is credited to Isaac Oliver, a French-born English painter who lived around the same time as Elizabeth.
“It’s unlikely that the original owner knew what they had,” says Cooper. “We are clear we are looking at a very high quality image by a 16th century artist.”
The painting is undergoing conservation and will be part of a display of Elizabethan artifacts later this year.