MANSFIELD — Little thought was spent on the painting that hung in the library of First Evangelical Presbyterian Church on South Trimble Road. Church Elder Brad Peffley said he would glance at it occasionally while attending a committee meeting, never once thinking it was a rare and valuable painting. “I thought it was a nice reproduction,” Peffley said.
The 50-by-29-inch oil on wood panel that had been donated to the church in 1951, sold this month at Sotheby’s Auction House in New York City for $160,000.
It was the Rev. Bob Stanley who pushed to have the painting examined by experts “A lot of people thought sending the painting to New York was a fool’s errand. I thought we might as well know — one way or another.”
Sotheby's Auction House in New York identified the work as “The Death of the Virgin” a missing panel from an altarpiece dating to the last decades of the 15th Century. It was painted around 1481 by an artist or workshop active in Passau, Germany and had, at one time hung, in the Louvre.
“The church didn’t know what to do with it so it was stored in a bank vault for 30 years,” church elder, Larry Pabst said. “The bank didn’t want to store it any longer so we brought the painting here and hung it in the library.”
Rev. Stanley believes the work was protected by divine intervention. “God was looking out for us. It remained protected in a bank vault for years and when it finally came to the church, it was hung away from the window,” Stanley said. “It could have been very damaged, but it wasn’t.”
Peffley concurred with Stanley. “It’s truly amazing nothing bad happened to the painting. It just hung there,” Peffley said. “I don’t think it was even under glass. No climate control, no air conditioning for some of those years.”
While the beautiful artwork has left the community, it’s better for all involved, Pabst said.
“The painting is where it ought to be now,” Pabst said. “The church could not afford to care for it or pay to have it insured.” Rev Stanley adds “I think how blessed our church is to receive that amount to continue our mission work,” he said.
Now there is talk of having a reproduction print made of “The Death of the Virgin” to hang in the church library — exactly where the valuable and rare original hung for more than 30 years. A church member who owns an advertising agency is looking into the proposal.Read the full article here