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One day, an employee at a tool-and-die company in Indiana spent $30 for a few pieces of used furniture and an old painting of some flowers and decided to strategically hang the picture to cover up a hole in the wall that had been bugging him.

Some years later he was playing a board game called Masterpiece in which players attempt to outbid one another for artwork at an auction. Much to his surprise, one of the cards in the game featured a painting of flowers that looked a lot like the one he had on his wall. He found that his painting was similar in style to the work of Martin Johnson Heade, an American still-life artist best known for landscapes and flower arrangements.

He asked the Kennedy Galleries in Manhattan, which handles many of Heade’s works, to take a look at his painting. They verified that the piece of artwork covering the hole in his wall was a previously unknown Heade painting, since named Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth. In 1999, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston purchased the painting for $1.2 million dollars.

New York Times June 1999

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