Frugal librarian amassed 4 million pound art trove

  1. By Luke Baker Reuters
    Tuesday, January 29 02:24 pm

    LONDON (Reuters) - From the outside it's an ordinary, red-brick house in a terraced row, not unlike tens of thousands of others scattered across Britain.

    But on the inside, Jean Preston's spartan Oxford home contained works of art of international significance, carefully acquired over a lifetime and haphazardly displayed.
    Preston, a thrifty 77-year-old spinster who rode the bus and ate frozen meals, died in 2006. But art experts and auctioneers have now completed the sale of the exceptional works hoarded in her modest home.

    The auctions have raised an estimated 4 million pounds, according to valuers, about 20 times the price of the house they were kept in, stunning experts and Preston's relatives alike.

    Among the treasures were two paintings by Fra Angelico, the 15th century Italian Renaissance master, that were the missing pieces of an eight-part altar decoration.
    They were sold together for $3.4 million (1.37 million pounds) and are expected to be returned to the Uffizi Gallery, Florence's famed art museum.

    "We knew we were going to a house that contained some important works," Guy Schwinge of Dukes art auctioneers in Dorchester, which helped with the sale, told Reuters.

    "But I was amazed to see quite how many treasures there were ... The Fra Angelicos were behind the bedroom door and we only spotted them on the way out."

    Hanging in the kitchen was a 19th century watercolour by pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and in the sitting room, above an electric fire, a work by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

    Those two, estimated to be worth $2 million, have been saved for Britain and are expected to go on display at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, Schwinge said.

    Another hidden treasure was a rare edition of the works of Chaucer that was too big to fit on Preston's bookshelf and was found buried in a wardrobe. It sold for nearly $150,000.

    "We often go to fabulous homes to evaluate artworks, but in this case the house was just so modest from the outside, and had very modest decor on the inside too," said Schwinge.

    "It's just rare to stumble across something quite so breathtaking."

    Preston, who worked as a librarian for much of her life, inherited many of the works from her father, a keen collector. Her relatives were stunned by the artworks she had tucked away.

    "My aunt bought her clothes from a catalogue, ate frozen meals and went everywhere on the bus," the Daily Mail newspaper quoted one of them as saying.

    "Who would have thought she had the equivalent of a winning lottery ticket in her spare room all these years?"

    (Editing by Paul Casciato)

  2. This is what I call real class.
  3. I'm just interested in how she came about those works. Maybe she bought what she thought were replicas. Maybe she bought them in secondhand shops.
  4. The article said: "Preston, who worked as a librarian for much of her life, inherited many of the works from her father, a keen collector. Her relatives were stunned by the artworks she had tucked away."

    She had the good sense to keep them!
  5. ^^ OH! Okay! :yes:
  6. Wow, that's really crazy, an art treasure trove inside your own home. It's worth living frugally for !
  7. My family is friends with a famous artist and he lives in a relatively humble abode given what he could afford to live in. But the inside is filled with Rembrandts. It's amazing.
  8. LOL @ this. What good is it to her now? It doesn't even seem like it was any good to her while she was alive. This is weird, like...Michael Jackson weird. It reminds me of all the stuff he used to collect, like the Elephant Man's bones and so forth. I'm sure the DSM-IV has a classification for this woman. She sounds like she was completely loony!
  9. How is living with beautiful art a waste?
  10. Reminds me of another story from a few of years ago. The couple (from NYC, I think) were also frugal and had amassed quite a fortune in art. Many of their paintings were unframed, rolled up and stashed in closets and under beds, etc. Anybody remember this story? It's amazing what you can do by living frugally (no designer bages for her, I bet.). Maybe this should be posted in the money forum.
  11. Michael Jackson never owned the bones of Joseph John Merrick (The Elephant Man) although he did want to buy them. If I recall, they are still on display at the British Royal Museum.

    It's a common urban legend.

    But he's still weird.

    Actuallly, this is more common than people know. Many older folks, who remember the depression and bought quality at low prices often die with a fortune in collectables. We had one here not too long ago... nasty litttle trailer but the guy had a small fortune in gold and silver coins. His car was 20 years old and the trailer was condemned after his death, it was THAT bad.
  12. I agree, it is only worthwhile if you sell it and make a ton of money? Some people appreciate art for themselves and own enjoyment. I would love to have a house full of art I loved to enjoy! If that makes me a weirdo, sobeit!
  13. Then I stand corrected. LOL. But this is still very odd to me.
  14. Then I'd be a weirdo, too!

    (If I knew they were valuable, and I could get along comfortably without having to sell them, I'd probably donate them to a museum where they'd be protected.)
  15. Why is it odd? There are a lot of art collectors... are they all "loonies?" Did you know that Sotheby's (I assume you don't know what Sotheby's is since you think art patrons are "loonies," but it's one of the largest auction houses) grosses a higher income than Goldman Sachs? It's a huge business.

    I find it a little unreal that a woman in a forum that's dedicated to buying expensive handbags is poking fun at a woman who spent her money on art. To each her own.