Mystery Portrait May Be a Lost Raphael

Mystery Portrait May Be a Lost Raphael.

Has Peter Silverman done it again?

He’s the art expert who spotted a nifty portrait of a young woman in Renaissance-style clothing, which had been attributed (and priced) as a mid-ninth-century work from an unknown German artist, and bought it on the hunch that it was actually authentic Renaissance…and possibly drawn by Leonardo da Vinci.

He amassed a body of expert opinion, scientific analysis, and old-fashioned detective work to defend the case that he’d discovered previously unknown da Vinci (and that his $21,850 purchase was actually worth upwards of a hundred million). It’s a great story and you should read the book he wrote about it, or watch the PBS NOVA special.

In the book, he describes a peculiar passion for hunting down mis-attributed works. Now he claims that a $50,000 portrait he bought in April is actually a Raphael.

My initial reaction: “Cool.” This is precisely the sort of story that makes for great reading: buried treasure, hanging in plain sight, waiting to be claimed by the first person to look harder and think “Heyyyy…”

Second reaction: “Aw, crap…this is precisely the sort of story that some basic-cable network will try to turn into a reality series.” Round up a couple of colorful characters, spend a few months hammering them into reality TV stars (odd facial hair, labored nicknames, hire them an office assistant with a complicated personal life…the works) and then stage a series of “finds” for ’em.