Culture & Society News Poland

Rare Chopin portrait found in Poland could be worth millions, experts say

Warsaw, Poland – A rare and previously unknown portrait of Polish-born pianist and composer Fryderyk Chopin could be worth millions of euros, according to a report by local media.

Extensively damaged, the painting was bought for a few dozen zlotys nearly 30 years ago by a Polish man at an antiques market in a small town near Lublin, eastern Poland.

His nephew, 30-year-old Maciej, eventually bought it from him and asked an expert to evaluate the rare gem, a small oil canvas of the celebrated Romantic composer, which could be worth up to 650 million of euros, according to the Chopin Institute.

Upon hearing the potential value of the canvas, the young Maciej “was so shaken that he crashed his car into a ditch”, according to local reports.

The painting, signed only “Alfred”, is thought to date from the 1840s, not long before the virtuoso pianist’s death and when he was already seriously ill with tuberculosis.

“The painting is an original work created in the 1840s and is one of the few portraits of Fryderyk Chopin made during his lifetime,” opined Prof. Dariusz Markowski, the first art conservation expert to have laid eyes on the work.

“The few portraits of Chopin are generally idealized,” he explained, “whereas this portrait shows a thin, sickly man. The composer is not ‘beautiful’ here, he is shown in a naturalistic way.”

The discovery remains shrouded in mystery and questions marks, including the identity of the painter, or how it made its way to eastern Poland in the first place.

No doubt, however, that the mysterious painting will bear great historical value for Chopin scholars.

Now partially restored, the painting is being kept in a vault and viewed by experts and curators. Its fate remains unknown for the time being.

Born in 1810 near Warsaw, Chopin is one of the most celebrated pianists and composers of the Romantic era. He moved to France in the early 1830s and spent most of his adult life in Paris. Suffering from important health problems from the late 1930s, as well as from severe bouts of depression, he died in 1849.

His body is buried in Paris at the cemetery of Pere-Lachaise, while his heart is famously interred at Warsaw’s Church of the Holy Cross.