Found in a Wexford garage: Valuable 15th-century altarpiece for auction

Following this week's extraordinary price paid for Wexford hurler Nickey Rackard's 1955 All-Ireland medal, the Catholic parishioners of Piercestown, a village in south Co Wexford, will be hoping for similar good fortune during Sheppard's three-day auction which begins on Tuesday.

A 15th-century Flemish altarpiece, discovered by the parish priest Fr John O'Reilly during the clearance of a disused garage in the presbytery, will go under the hammer with an estimate of €80,000-€120,000.

It is not known how or why the it ended up in Ireland. One theory is that the altarpiece was brought to Ireland by Benedictine nuns or monks from Belgium who moved to Ireland for safety during the first World War.

The piece goes on public view today at Sheppard's saleroom in Durrow, Co Laois from 10am. Interest is strong and spokesman Philip Sheppard said the altarpiece had already attracted considerable interest from Belgium and the Netherlands.

In stark contrast, there's also European interest in a 1920s painting of a female nude titled Le Modèle. Painted by a leading French artist, André Derain, it is estimated at €150,000-€250,000. The sale is quite a coup for Sheppard's.

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