1 December 2023

Detail of the hands and appearance of the characters' eyes are among the elements that have made it possible to authenticate The Payment of the Tithe, also known as The Village Lawyer (1615-1616), as a work by Bruegel the Younger.

While doing an inventory in a family home, an auctioneer, Malo de Lussac, came across a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Younger (1564-1636) dating from around 1615-1617. A story that all auctioneers dream of and that we sometimes read about in the newspapers. A hidden treasure was quietly aging on the TV lounge wall of a small chateau in the French countryside. payment of tithing, also says The village lawyer, a huge canvas almost 2 meters long, was visible at the “Chosen Works” exhibition, from March 11 to 17, and will be exhibited at the Hôtel Drouot, in Paris, on March 25, 27 and 28, alongside a drawing by Victor Hugo, a porcelain service from Sèvres and a marble from Carpeaux. It will be offered, on March 28, for public sale by Malo de Lussac.

The story begins with a search on the Internet, when a family of penniless aristocrats seeks to have its movable heritage appraised. They fall on the small study Daguerre, installed for a year in Amboise (Indre-et-Loire), directed by Malo de Lussac, 36 years old. The latter will visit the property in the fall of 2022. “A classic interior, I was not dazzled. I always start by having a coffee with the customers, to establish a climate of trust, tell my job… This makes it easier for me to ask questions afterwards”, he explains in his new offices, which are still almost empty.

“In front of the Bruegel, I felt that something was happening”

“I always start inventories with the kitchen: silverware, porcelain, crystals… I look at everything. Then we arrive in the TV room. I don’t see the canvas right away. My client shows it to me and says: “Here is the Bruegel”, he says smiling. My ideas get confused, and I put myself in technical mode, I proceed methodically: frame, stretcher, canvas, then composition, characters, details… I ask questions and I learn that the family legend wants this painting to be a copy rough of a Bruegel. Obviously, there was a misunderstanding at some point…”

Malo de Lussac then does what many auctioneers do in such a situation, he sends an SMS to Stéphane Pinta, an expert from the Turquin firm, specializing in the expertise of old paintings. “I receive thirty text messages a day, and sometimes my eye and my heart vibrate together in front of an image, says the expert and former restorer of paintings. That day, in front of the Bruegel, I felt that something was happening. »

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