Rare 17th-century painting of Charles II unearthed by seven-year-old boy
A seven-year-old history buff unearthed a contemporary 17th-century portrait of Charles II after studying Britain’s kings and queens.
Dylan Maggs fell in love with the painting that his mother, Elizabeth Vella, had inherited from her grandparents.
She believed it to be a 19th century work and had packed it away. But Dylan convinced her to take it to The Repair Shop, BBC One’s restoration series.
The show’s painting conservator, Lucia Scalisi, painstakingly cleaned and restored the work, along with its tatty frame.
Beneath the layers of grime – and soup splashes accumulated while it hung on Elizabeth’s grandparents’ dining room wall – was a highly detailed portrait which Scalisi dated to 1660, in Charles II’s reign.
“It’s actually really cool, I can’t put it into words. I think I’m almost the luckiest person on the planet, to have a painting that’s that old,” said Dylan, who has turned eight since the programme was recorded.
His mother explained: “Dylan got really into history. He can tell you every monarch, and his favourite is Charles II because he’s the ‘Merry Monarch’.
"And I said, 'I've got something to show you,' pulled [the painting] out and he said, 'Wow, this is amazing... can we hang him up?' I said, 'We can't hang him up, he's in such a state. We need to get him sorted first.'"
The portrait is by an unknown artist but Scalisi, previously a specialist at the V&A, identified it as a work based on an engraving by the renowned printmaker Sir Robert Peake. It was common in the 17th century for artists to copy engravings.
Scalisi said: “It is a remarkable find, and it’s all thanks to Dylan’s enthusiasm for history – he encouraged his mum to have this painting restored and get it back on the wall.
“When he came to The Repair Shop, he was in his element because he really knows his stuff.
“Dylan’s mother loved this portrait when it was on her grandparents’ wall, and nicknamed it ‘Charlie Boy’. No one else in the family wanted it. But she had no idea of its potential.”
Scalisi said the age of the painting became apparent when she studied the weave of the canvas. “I saw that, and my antennae went up,” she said.
The gold leaf frame also dates from the 17th century.
The restoration is included in this week's episode of the show. The painting has not been valued, but Scalisi said: “In terms of its quality and rarity, it is certainly a museum-worthy piece.”