ESTIMATES are exactly that, estimates, and this painting of Jesus defied all expectations when it went under the hammer in Ireland.
Adam's Auctioneers on St Stephen's Green, Dublin held a routine antiques auction on Sunday with Lot 160, a small oil painting of Jesus Christ, listed for less than €1,000.
The Italian School painting ‘Jesus Wearing the Crown of Thorns’ was estimated to sell for between €500 to €800.
The artwork, a 19th century work painted on copper panel, measures 34cm x 24cm and is contained in an impressive carved, gilded and painted frame.
But for all its beauty, no one could have foreseen the painting’s going for 240 times its estimate – at an astonishing €120,000.
“I brought the hammer down on €120,000,” said James O’Halloran, Managing Director at Adam’s Auctioneers. “It was very exciting.”
He explained to RTÉ's News at One how unusual it is for a painting to go at a price so much higher than its estimate.
"I opened the bidding at €500. I knew that there was a certain amount of interest; we had a number of people registered to bid on the phones, and we expected a certain amount of internet bidding as well,” he added.
We haven't had a 'sleeper' in years but certainly had one today with €120k being paid for this copper panel against an estimate of €800 ? pic.twitter.com/sVNNBsFsDB
— Adam's Auctioneers (@Adams1887) April 9, 2017
"It’s not a hugely attractive subject for most people, it’s quite gory, but one of the internet bidders pounced immediately and put in a bid of €2,000, and at that point I knew we’d get some degree of fireworks, but I certainly didn’t expect the bidding to continue to the extent that it did.”
This type of sale is referred to as "a sleeper".
"We haven't had one for quite a long time ... in this business you don't know everything and you can't know everything,” added Mr O’Halloran.
"Sometimes things turn up that somebody else sees something in."
As if the huge sale wasn’t already unbelievable enough, neither of the two final bidders have yet seen the painting in person.
“To my knowledge, neither have seen the picture in the flesh, so to speak,” says O’Halloran.