$200,000 Illustration Found in Queens Thrift Store

The Ergon Schiele original was the the find of a lifetime

Prudence Earl / UnSplash
Prudence Earl / UnSplash

When shopping second-hand, one might be lucky to strike a decent deal. But a lucky shopper hit the jackpot at a thrift store in Queens with a drawing by Austrian Expressionist artist Egon Schiele, now valued at up to $200,000.

The previously unknown illustration, which is estimated to have been created around 1918, was found in a hidden in a Habitat for Humanity New York City ReStore in Woodside. The drawing was sketched by Schiele shortly before he died at age 28 from the Spanish flu pandemic.

The anonymous buyer, a part-time art collector, immediately recognized the piece as one of Schiele’s works. According to a spokesperson, the buyer contacted Jane Kallir of Galerie St. Etienne, a leading expert on the artist, to verify its authenticity. 

“We were sent a rather blurry .jpg of a drawing that had been purchased at a thrift store,” says Kallir. “We did not expect much when, finally, the buyer of this drawing brought it in for us to examine.”

Other depictions of the same subject are displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Leopold Museum in Vienna, according to Kallir.

“The subject … is unmistakably his,” says Kallir. “A little girl who regularly posed for the artist, alone and with her mother, in 1918.”

In an email with The Art Newspaper, Karen Haycox, the chief executive of Habitat for Humanity New York City, professed her excitement for the rare finding. “We are ecstatic!,” says Haycox. “I can’t help but think that were it not for the Habitat NYC ReStore, this piece of art history might have ended up in a landfill, lost forever.”

The piece will be on display at Galerie St. Etienne in Manhattan until Oct. 11. If the illustration sells, a portion of the earnings will be donated to the Habitat for Humanity New York City.

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