17th Century painting may be priceless if painted by William Hogarth.
17th Century painting may be priceless if painted by William Hogarth.

Masterpiece to be worth $1 million

ART experts from overseas are preparing to travel to Maryborough to try to authenticate what is believed to be a $1 million painting of 18th-Century artist William Hogarth.

The painting, believed to be a self-portrait, dated circa 1731, has been sitting in a safe at the Maryborough Wide Bay and Burnett Historical Society for more than 30 years.

About six years ago it was moved to a glass display cabinet where it has been largely overlooked – but not by Queensland Museum’s Fiona Mohr during an assessment last month.

Ms Mohr reported the finding to Hogarth experts at London’s Tate Gallery and they are now expected to travel to Australia to investigate.

If authentic the painting could be worth about $1 million.

“We always thought that it could be valuable but the problem was that it wasn’t signed,” said society secretary Shirley Hewitt.

“It would be good to get it authenticated ... we’ve always talked about it.”

The oil-on-board portrait was donated by Maryborough resident Minnie Hull in the 1970s.

It was believed a relative of Ms Hull had received it as a wedding present in 1881.

Society member Edward Mosig said Hogarth – who featured in the painting holding an artist’s palette in one hand and a paintbrush in the other – was well-known for his satirical works.

“Obviously the first step will be to authenticate paint scrapings,” he said. “The frame has already been authenticated as being from the era.”

Ms Mohr, the museum’s Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay development officer, said the date and style indicated the painting could be the work of Hogarth.

She said the find would probably never have been made if there had not been an assessment of the significance of the Maryborough collection.

“We’ve been astonished by our findings – the Hogarth portrait may be the most valuable but other artefacts found at museums in Wondai, Maryborough and Booubyjan are highly significant, reflecting the rich social history of the region.”

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