A portrait of young and beautiful Charles Dickens, who was lost for 174 years, was discovered in an auction drink tray in South Africa.
The discovery is one of the most remarkable findings of fresh memory. The artist Philip Mold, who was instrumental in his identification, said: "I have spent a career specializing in British art and these ranks among the most exciting things we've ever discovered. It's the lost picture."
It was found last year in general sales in Pietermaritzburg in the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal. Man paid the equivalent of £ 27 for a cardboard tray with a metal chalice, an old recorder, a copper plate and a small painting, which was so covered with a mold that barely could face the face.
The search engine has taken it out of the frame he has sold. "He was moments away from basically throwing out this fungus covered by mushrooms and then he looked at it and realized that the face was very convincing," said a Mold.
With the help of some online research, the search engine realized that it seemed Dickens, who encouraged him to contact Emma Rutherford's Moldo's miniature's gallery and miniatures.
"She came to me and said something extraordinary arose – it seems to appear Charles Dickens's lost portrait," said Mulder, who is best known for Fake or Fortune, the series of BBC One, which he presents with Fiona Bruce.
It soon realized that it must be the Dickens lost portrait by the artist Margaret Gillies, an early supporter of women's suffrage. He was painted at the end of 1843 when Dickens, aged 31, was an emerging literary star and wrote A Christmas Carol, and was exposed to acclaim at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1844.
The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of those to see it, noting that it showed Dickens to have "the dust and mud of mankind about him, despite those eyes."
It was used as the front line of A New Spirit of the Age, 1844 book of tests on the day's cultural stars, including Tennyson, Browning and Mary Shelley. Dickens was the first chapter.
There are two other early portraits of Dickens, one of which is at the National Portrait Gallery, but the lost picture is very different, according to Mold. "Instead of the fact that it is a chinese characteristic characteristic with eyes looking away … here he sets you with these penetrating, but also eye-catching eyes. They look at you. It's an extremely straightforward, almost ready look."
Rutherford said Dickens had gone through a difficult period because of the bad reception of his most recent work, Martin Chuzzlewit.
"Having a picture of Dickens at this particular time when his career was on a knife, it made it much more compulsory. His future was uncertain – he was overcrowded with a growing family and living beyond his way. Gillies seems to capture both wounds and confidences. "
As the picture to South Africa can never be fully known, but new research suggests that it was given to one of two sons-in-law of the adoptive daughter of Gillies. Both emigrated to South Africa in the 1860s.
The hope is that the picture should become part of the Charles Dickens Museum's permanent collection in London. The cost of the picture is not spread separately as it is a six-digit. The museum starts a campaign to raise the necessary funds to get the picture. Meanwhile, it is at the Mold gallery in Pall Mall.