Church appeal boosted by painting

WHEN parishioners at a picturesque Suffolk church launched a campaign to raise much needed restoration funds, little did they realise the answer to their prayers was literally staring them in the face.

WHEN parishioners at a picturesque Suffolk church launched a campaign to raise much needed restoration funds, little did they realise the answer to their prayers was literally staring them in the face.

For half a century, a colossal painting hanging on a wall at All Saints' Church, in Gazeley, near Newmarket, had been left untouched.

But a recent valuation of the artwork revealed it was in fact by French artist Jacques Stella, and could be worth in the region of £8,000.

Money raised by the sale of the painting, which goes under the hammer at Cheffins later this month, will now be used to help pay for repairs to the church, including a new roof for the south aisle


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The Rev Stephen Mitchell, who has been the vicar at All Saints' for the past three years, said he had no idea the picture, which is in dire need of repair, was worth so much.

“It was given to the church by Trinity Hall College, in Cambridge, in 1957, and it had hung on the wall ever since,” he said.

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“We had never really taken much notice of it, but it had deteriorated badly over the years and eventually we decided we either needed to get it repaired, or sell it, but we never dreamt it would be worth much.”

The oil on canvas artwork, called The Presentation in the Temple, was acquired in 1700 by the father of Dean Chetwode, a fellow of Trinity Hall. It was then presented to the college by Mr Chetwode's son in 1729.

Jacques Stella, son of the Flemish painter Francois Stella, made his name in Rome in the 17th century producing paintings and engravings.

In 1634, he visited Venice, Milan and Lyon, before arriving in Paris where he became the official painter to King Louis XIII.

“It is a huge painting so I am not quite sure who would buy it, but I am sure it would be of interest to a collector of Jacques Stella's work,” said Mr Mitchell.

“If it was in good condition I think it would be worth around £30,000, but it would cost quite a lot to restore it so we decided it would be easier to sell it as it is, although I am sure it will be lovely when it is fully restored and cleaned up.

“The money will be a big help to the restoration of the church, and we are sure the painting will go to a good home.”

The painting has now been removed from the church in preparation for the auction on April 26 and 27.

Cheffins' art expert Sarah Flynn, who examined the painting, said: “We do not see paintings by this particular artist very often in England, so this example is very rare.”

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