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400-year-old painting returned to country house following restoration

The Dutch artwork had been in storage for several decades.

A 400-year-old painting has been returned to a country house for the first time in 60 years.

The Dutch picture, known as The Vegetable Seller, which is by an unknown artist, was restored by conservators at English Heritage before being returned to the art collection at Audley End House in Essex.

The painting had been in storage since it was last on show there.

(English Heritage/PA)

English Heritage said that new research on the picture had identified it “as dating from just before the Dutch Golden Age – much earlier than previously thought”.

The two-year restoration project also uncovered “possible associations” with Antwerp painter Joachim Beuckelaer and it “may have even been painted by the artist himself”, the organisation said.

The painting depicts a female figure who is surrounded by fresh produce.

It includes some “heritage varieties” of fruit and vegetables which have been lost entirely from cultivation, English Heritage said.

During the restoration, a strip of canvas, which was found to have been added to the top of the painting in the late 18th or early 19th century, was removed.

Alice Tate-Harte, English Heritage’s collections conservator, said: “We’re so pleased that visitors to Audley End will now be able to see such a wonderful painting restored to its former glory.

(English Heritage/PA)

“From the first cleaning test we had a glimpse of the beautiful colours beneath all the grime, which was incredibly exciting.

“The restoration also means that, after years of The Vegetable Seller being something of a mystery, we are closer to possibly uncovering the identity of the artist.”

– The Vegetable Seller is on show at Audley End House from Friday.

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