When a 30-year-old entrepreneur from eastern Poland recently bought the painting for a small sum from his collector uncle, he asked an expert to evaluate it.
After the expert, Prof. Dariusz Markowski, delivered his opinion, the entrepreneur, named only as Maciej, was so shaken that he crashed his car into a ditch, the Polish website reported on Monday.
Thankfully no one was hurt, it said.
The news was that the worn-down portrait was genuine, from the 1840s and one of the few portraits of Chopin painted in his lifetime, onet.pl reported.
Signed only “Alfred,” it depicts a slender, 30-something genius composer, not “pretty” as usual, but racked by illness, according to Markowski.
By that time, Chopin had been suffering from the effects of tuberculosis and his tempestuous relationship with French novelist George Sand, onet.pl noted.
According to Poland's National Chopin Institute, the Chopin brand is worth over PLN 3 billion (EUR 650 million), yet so far Maciej has not heard from the several Polish museums he had informed about the painting, the website reported.
It quoted Markowski as saying that “the capricious nature” of the art market made it difficult to predict the exact price the portrait could fetch, yet its rarity suggests “the material value could be high.”
For example, a portrait of a teenage Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was sold for EUR 4.4 million at an auction in Paris in 2019, Markowski pointed out, according to onet.pl.
For now, the Chopin painting remains in a bank safety-deposit box, but its owner plans “to show it to the world soon,” onet.pl reported, citing Maciej as saying that he would “sooner expect to win a lottery than find a work of art like this.”