Updated: Wednesday, 09 July 2014 03:57 | By Agence France-Presse

Van Dyck portrait set to fetch 1,000 times original price

A lost Van Dyck painting bought for £400 ($685, 500 euros) is expected to fetch £500,000 at auction on Tuesday after being spotted on a British television programme.

Van Dyck portrait set to fetch 1,000 times original price

Men look at portrait paintings by Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck during the exhibition "El joven Van Dyck" at El Prado museum in Madrid on November 16, 2012 - by Dominique Faget

The painting, a sketch for the 1635 work "The Magistrates Of Brussels", was bought by Catholic priest Father Jamie MacLeod from an antiques shop in Cheshire, northern England.

In December, MacLeod took the bargain painting onto "Antiques Roadshow" -- a BBC television programme on which hopeful antique hunters have their purchases valued by experts.

The host of the show, Fiona Bruce, had been making a show about the Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck and brought the priest's painting to the attention of one of the experts, having seen it and thinking it was genuine.

"It has been a blessing to own this magnificent portrait which has given me great pleasure over the years. I will be sad to part with it," said MacLeod.

He said funds from the sale would be used to buy new church bells for a retreat he runs in Derbyshire, northern England, to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War I.

Auctioneers Christie's, which gave an estimate of between £300,000 and £500,000 for the painting, said the sketch had largely been obscured by overpainting, and as a result had been overlooked by Van Dyck scholars.

After a long period of cleaning and restoration, the masterpiece was checked by Christopher Brown, one of the worlds authorities on Van Dyck, who pronounced it genuine, they said.

Freddie de Rougemont of Christie’s said the auction house was "delighted" to offer the picture for sale, "particularly after its exciting re-discovery on the Antiques Roadshow. 

"The picture is of great importance as it provides a fascinating insight into Van Dyck’s working method and also constitutes a significant surviving document for the artist’s lost group portrait of The Magistrates of Brussels," he said.

The "swiftly executed head study" was consistent with three other known sketches for "The "Magistrates of Brussels", which hung in Brussels Town Hall until it was destroyed during the French bombardment of the city in 1695, Christie's said.

Van Dyck was born in modern-day Belgium and came to work in England in 1632 at the invitation of King Charles I.

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