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$4 painting from NH Savers turns out to be long-lost Wyeth "Ramona" illustration, sells for $191K at auction

Painting by Delco artist sold at auction for $191K
Painting by Delco artist sold at auction for $191K 01:20

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You never know what you're going to find while antiquing. What was once bought for a mere $4 at a Savers in Manchester, New Hampshire, just sold for $191,000 at an auction.

Found in a stack of mostly damaged prints and posters was a heavy and dusty painting of two women in front of a religious statue, one with a stern face. Looking for old frames to repurpose, the thriftier tossed it into their cart, completely unaware of what they discovered.

After hanging in her bedroom for a few years, the oil painting was eventually stored away in a closet. At one point, she even joked about it being a real painting after not finding any results during a quick internet search, but never really gave it a second thought.

Then, in May, while doing some spring cleaning, the unknown thriftier came across the painting again and decided to post some photos of it on Facebook. She was quickly referred to the Brandywine Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, as well as a conservator -- who drove three hours just to view the painting in person.  

As it turns out, the work of art that was bought for just a few dollars roughly six years earlier was actually a legitimate and valuable piece by the American painter and illustrator, Newell Convers Wyeth, also known as N.C. Wyeth.   

The long-lost painting, identified as Ramona, is one of four illustrations Wyeth made for the 1939 edition of the Helen Hunt Jackson novel, according to the auctioneer Bonhams Skinner. It depicts the tension between Ramona and her mother Señora Moreno.   

Ramona by Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945): A frontispiece illustration (Señora Gonzaga Moreno and Ramona) Bonhams Skinner

Only one other of the four illustrations has been located.

As for that frame that initially caught the thriftier's eye, well, it is said that it was chosen by Wyeth in an effort to protect the edges and corners of the artwork while it was sent by train from his home in Chadds Ford to studio publishers in either Philadelphia or New York, Bonhams Skinner said. 

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