Print Warwickshire couple brought by accident for £12 turned out to be by Lucian Freud and could sell for £18,000 at auction

The artwork set to be auctionedThe artwork set to be auctioned
The artwork set to be auctioned
The image was part of a lot they bought for £12 because they liked the frames they came in

A Warwickshire couple who bought a rare Lucian Freud print for about £12 are set to sell it for up to a staggering £18,000 at an auction next month.

The limited edition work of art will go under the hammer at Gildings Auctioneers’ Fine Art & Antiques auction in Market Harborough on Tuesday November 16.

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And it is poised to fetch up to 1,500 times the price that the Warwickshire-based couple forked out for it in the spring.

The lucky owners, who haven’t been named, only began bidding at auctions as a hobby during the Covid pandemic lockdowns.

They bought two prints for less than £12 - because they liked the frames.

And on collecting them they were also handed a third print they hadn’t realised was part of the lot.

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This print showed a man’s face against a plain background – and was attached to two chunky pieces of cardboard.

The new owner took it home thinking he’d use the cardboard as an oil drip tray when fixing his motorbike. So he detached the print from the cardboard and put it to one side.

But while watching Secrets of the Museum on BBC2 a few weeks later the shocked couple realised the print they’d bought totally by accident could be the work of one of the most famous artists of the 20th century.

The episode of Secrets of the Museum took viewers into the studio of artist David Dawson.

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Dawson was one of Lucian Freud’s most regular models from 1990 until Freud died in 2011.

The show focused on a 1998 etching of Dawson’s face, which was then produced in an edition of 46.

A quick online search identified the print as being one of the edition of 46, signed and numbered in pencil by Freud with his simple ‘LF’ initials.

The thrilled owners then contacted Gildings Auctioneers in Market Harborough for a physical inspection.

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Director and 20th century art specialist Will Gilding quickly confirmed it was the work of Lucian Freud after studying the print.

“I was delighted to be able to be able to tell this couple that the print they had picked up for less than the price of a takeaway pizza, was indeed the work of arguably the most celebrated figurative artist of the 20th century,” said Will.

“To our knowledge, the only print from this edition that has been offered at auction so far was sold as part of the Rockefeller Collection at Christie's New York in 2018 for $30,000.

“With a less high-profile but no less intriguing provenance, we anticipate this print to be worth £12,000-£18,000 at auction in the current market.”

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The estimate reflects the fact that the print has a crease in the paper. But that’s highly unlikely to deter bidders from the rare opportunity to acquire a piece of art by the fabled Lucian Freud.

“Although the estimate of £12,000-£18,000 is a lot of money, to own a Freud original would cost you in the millions.

“And so a signed edition print of the artist’s work presents an unmissable opportunity for a collector to acquire a Freud print at a relatively ‘affordable’ price,” added Will.

“Also, the mystery of how such a valuable work of art came to be almost given away at auction can only add to the attraction of owning it.”

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Born in Berlin in 1922, Lucian Freud was the grandson of psychoanalysis founder Sigmund Freud.

He moved with his family to England in 1933 after Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party rose to take power in Germany.

Known for his fierce protection of his privacy, Freud’s arresting and realistic portraits were mainly of friends and family and are the result of the punishing sitting schedules he demanded from his models over his 60-year career.

The flagship Fine Art & Antiques auction will also star impressive examples of ceramics and glass, paintings, Asian art, fine silver and furniture and furnishings.

The sale will begin at 10.30am on Tuesday November 16.

For the latest information on the auction visit