dutch treat! Lost old master worth millions found at NSW art academy


A 400-year-old ‘one in a million’ Dutch painting worth up to $5 million has been found on a property in NSW’s Blue Mountains.

Called Still lifethe work was recently located at Woodford Academy, run by the National Trust of Australia, during a restoration project.

The 17th century oil depicts a lavish table typical of the Dutch Golden Age and is said to have been painted by Gerrit Willemz Heda.

Some experts, however, are not convinced and believe it could be a collaboration with his famous father, the Dutch master Willem Claesz Heda, whose works are usually valued at millions of dollars.

“Finding an authentic 17th century painting in my National Trust reserve was beyond exciting, it took my breath away,” Collections Manager Rebecca Pinchin said on Sunday.

“This is a remarkable story of discovery, taking us on a journey through a number of years, piecing together and validating work through expert guidance and technology.”

Ms Pinchin said finding the artist’s signature “felt like a one in a million chance”.

The National Trust says it is possible Alfred Fairfax, nephew of James Fairfax, the founder of the Sydney Morning Heraldbrought the painting to Woodford today Blue Mountains museum, art gallery and tourist attraction.

The painting may have belonged to press baron Alfred Fairfax. Photo: Woodford Academy

Alfred Fairfax was a successful businessman and bought the building in 1868. At the time, art collecting was a popular pastime for the wealthy and Dutch ‘Old Masters’ works were all the rage.

The discovery announcement comes as Australia and the Netherlands celebrate 80 years of full diplomatic relations and a bilateral relationship based on international law and trade.

“Australia and the Netherlands share enduring bonds of friendship and family,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.

He said the two countries also continue to seek truth, justice and accountability for the downing of MH17 and stand together in support of Ukraine.

Still life will be on display at Woodford Academy as part of the Australian Heritage Festival 2022 on May 14.

The Dutch Golden Age reflects a time in history from approximately 1588 to 1672 when Dutch trade, science, art, and the military were dominant in Europe.


Mildred D. Field