Shine a light on work

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 08:14 29/11/2013
Light of the world
Kelly Dennett
HISTORIC: The Light of the World was painted in the 19th century by artist William Holman Hunt.
John Nicholson
CURIOUS: John Nicholson, 73, wants to know if his Hunt painting is an original.

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John Nicholson needs help to find out if he's been sitting on a goldmine for the past 26 years.

The Te Atatu resident has been holding on to a large painting since he bought it 1987.

He believes the piece to be an original work by English painter William Holman Hunt but he needs help verifying this before he can sell it.

Mr Nicholson purchased it among several other items at a George Walker's auction of a deceased woman's estate.

The framed painting appealed to him and thought it would make an interesting addition to his salvage store in Penrose.

He paid around $4000 for the lot and hung the painting in his shop.

About a month later a woman claiming to be from Auckland Art Gallery took great interest in the work.

"She was there for a good hour," Mr Nicholson says.

"She photographed it and measured it and was checking it all over. She was really intrigued by it."

What was more intriguing was her advice to Mr Nicholson.

"She said I want you to take it down, wrap it up in cotton wool and put it in storage.

"I said ‘do you think it's worth something?', and she said, ‘yes I do. I can't fault it'."

If the woman is correct then the painting could be worth millions.

Hunt painted two copies called The Light of the World about 1853.

It depicts Jesus knocking on a closed door with no handle which Mr Hunt said represented the closed mind.

The two originals reside in London's St Paul's Cathedral and in Oxford but Mr Nicholson believes Hunt painted more than two. He's sought help from London auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's who've told him he needs authentication from an expert before they can help him sell it.

Auckland and Wellington Art Galleries haven't been able to provide assistance.

"So we're left with the possibility of somebody out there who might be an art historian and who might be able to help me verify it," he says.

"The more I've gone into it, I think we've got a real piece."

Mr Nicholson would like to hear from anybody who can authenticate and certify the painting as a genuine Hunt.

He can be contacted on 837 7197.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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