Spanish restorers find unknown Bruegel masterpiece

Thu Sep 23, 2010 3:58pm EDT
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MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish restorers have revealed a previously unknown masterpiece by 16th century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the Prado art gallery said on Thursday.

Months of restoration by Prado experts revealed the artist's signature on the painting, which depicts around 100 people celebrating the tasting of the first wine of the season at the festival of San Martin in the Netherlands.

"It's a remarkable event, it's unlikely that there will ever be another Bruegel discovered again in such an unexpected manner. There are barely 40 Bruegels in the world," said Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde.

The painting belonged to a private Spanish collection whose owners wanted to sell it and brought it to the museum for restoration. They did not know it was the work of Bruegel, the patriarch of a prolific Flemish painting dynasty, known for his landscapes and depictions of peasant life.

The Prado is negotiating with the owners to buy the work, but the minister declined to say how much the state was prepared to pay for it.

El Pais newspaper said the Prado could pay as much as 7 million euros ($9.4 million) in a state-supported deal for the painting, which would cost no less than 25 million euros in the open market.

<p>Spanish Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde looks at "The Wine of Saint Martin's Day", a previously unknown work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, during its exhibition to the media at the Prado museum in Madrid September 23, 2010. The painting has been attributed to Bruegel, who with this painting has only 41 known works, by the Prado museum after several months of study and the restoration of the painting. REUTERS/Andrea Comas</p>