Perhaps it was the way the single eye followed him around the room, but when Eliot Dyer saw the cubist watercolour in a charity shop, he knew he had to own it.
Four pounds later, Gefangeme Liebe – or Prisoner of Love – was his. But it was at another charity shop that Mr Dyer this week learnt the true value of his bargain.
For the picture was painted in 1995 by the Georgian contemporary artist Zaza Tuschmalischvili, whose work can fetch hundreds – even thousands – of pounds at auction.
The painting was identified by auctioneer Philip Allwood, of Moore Allen & Innocent in Cirencester, who held an antiques valuation event in the town in aid of the charity Cirencester Housing for Young People.
The 28-inch by 20-inch watercolour is signed by the artist who annotated the reverse of the painting in his native language of kartuli.
“Art from the post-Soviet states is highly collectable,” Philip told a delighted Mr Dyer. “If I were to put it to auction, it would be with a guide price of £300 to £500, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it made more.”
It wasn’t the only treasure identified at the event, held at the beginning of CHYP Awareness Week on Monday (June 23).
A circa 1627 framed map of Asia published by John Speed, based on the 1623 map by Jodocus Hondius and featuring an elephant in the middle of China, the Great Wall too far to the north of the country, and America just off the ‘Chinean’ coast was valued at £500 to £700.
A painting by the Irish watercolour landscape and marine artist and lithographer Thomas Leeson Rowbotham featuring Lake Maggiore in his typical style – land and figures to the right of the picture, water and boats to the left – was valued at £500 to £800.
An Elizabeth I long cross shilling – shaved of silver at the edges, but otherwise in good condition – was valued at £200 to £300, while an early 20th century hammered silver vase by the designer Charles Robert Ashbee – who set up the Guild of Handicraft in Chipping Campden in 1902 – was cautiously estimated at £1,000 to £1,500.
“We were busy from start to finish,” said Philip after the event. “This was a great opportunity for people to find out more about their art and antiques, and raise some money for a good cause. And of course, there were some surprises along the way.”
In all the event raised more than £220 for the charity, which runs two houses in Cirencester for homeless people between the ages of 16 and 25.
For more information about CHYP and its week of events, log on to www.chypthecharity.org.uk