Rubens masterpiece found in Missouri! The renowned Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens has resurfaced a long-lost painting titled “Saint Sebastian Tended by Two Angels” that was lost for centuries. This extraordinary discovery, aided by X-ray analysis, has brought to light an original composition by Rubens, shedding new light on his artistic genius. With its captivating brushwork and profound narrative, the auction house plans to auction the painting for an estimated £4-6 million ($5.1-7.7 million). Let us delve into the fascinating story behind this masterpiece and its journey to Missouri.

Rubens Masterpiece Found in Missouri
A Rubens painting “lost” for centuries could now fetch up to US$7.7 million at auction in July 2023. (Courtesy Sotheby’s)

Details In Short:

  • Title: “Saint Sebastian Tended by Two Angels”
  • Artist: Peter Paul Rubens
  • Location: Missouri, United States
  • Estimated Value: £4-6 million ($5.1-7.7 million)
  • X-ray Analysis: Revealed true nature and authorship in April
  • Historical Commission: Possibly commissioned by Ambrogio Spinola
  • Subject: Depicts the tragic tale of Saint Sebastian
  • Disappearance: Vanished from records in the 1730s
  • Mistaken Identity: Wrongly identified in 2008 as a painting by Laurent de la Hyre
  • Unveiled Composition: X-ray analysis revealed original composition, surpassing a similar painting in Rome
  • Artistic Process: X-ray analysis exposed Rubens’ adjustments and alterations
  • Auction: Scheduled for July 5 in London, offering collectors the chance to acquire this masterpiece

The Enigmatic History

Centuries ago, Rubens completed the masterpiece “Saint Sebastian Tended by Two Angels,” depicting the tragic tale of Sebastian, a Roman soldier who faced martyrdom after converting to Christianity. Art historians believe that Ambrogio Spinola, an Italian nobleman and devout Catholic with a close association to Rubens, commissioned the painting. This choice of saint resonated with Spinola’s own faith and the religious turmoil of the time.

The artwork, once held in high regard, disappeared from historical records in the 1730s. It changed hands within the family line, eventually vanishing until its unexpected reappearance in Missouri in 1963. Unfortunately, during an auction in 2008, there was a mistaken identification of the painting as a work by Laurent de la Hyre. The painting’s true identity remained concealed until recent X-ray analysis brought to light Rubens’ authorship.

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Unveiling the Masterpiece

X-ray analysis conducted in April revealed the true nature of the painting—a genuine Rubens masterpiece. Notably, it unveiled the original composition, surpassing the significance of a similar painting housed in the Corsini family collection in Rome. The analysis also exposed Rubens’ artistic process, capturing his meticulous adjustments and alterations. For instance, Rubens initially depicted Saint Sebastian facing the opposite direction in the painting, while he omitted another arrow piercing his right thigh in the final rendition. Such discoveries provide invaluable insights into Rubens’ artistic brilliance.

George Gordon, Sotheby’s co-chairman of old master paintings worldwide, expressed his admiration for the liveliness and vivacity of Rubens’ brushwork. The painting’s vibrant execution testifies to Rubens’ renowned mastery of the Baroque style.

The Road to Auction

After centuries of obscurity, the resurfaced masterpiece stands poised to make its grand return to the art world. Scheduled for auction in London on July 5, art enthusiasts and collectors eagerly await the opportunity to acquire this extraordinary piece. With its historical significance and artistic brilliance, the estimated value of £4-6 million ($5.1-7.7 million) reflects its immense worth.

The auction will provide a stage where art enthusiasts and collectors can realize the true value and appreciation for Rubens’ work. This long-lost treasure, rediscovered in Missouri, will once again take its rightful place among the masterpieces of art history.


The remarkable story of Rubens’ masterpiece found in Missouri captivates art lovers worldwide. The journey of “Saint Sebastian Tended by Two Angels” from its creation to its rediscovery showcases the enduring power of art and the remarkable resilience of historical treasures. Through X-ray analysis, the true essence of Rubens’ genius was unveiled, leaving no doubt about the authenticity and artistic mastery of this exceptional painting. As the painting prepares to go under the hammer, its estimated value reflects the profound impact Rubens’ work continues to have on the art world. The upcoming auction provides an opportunity for this long-lost masterpiece to find a new home, where its historical significance and artistic brilliance can be cherished and admired for generations to come.

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