Lost Degas bought for $1,000 now worth millions

A pastel drawing once dismissed as a “fake” has been authenticated as a genuine work by the renowned Impressionist, Edgar Degas, per artnet.com. The piece, identified as “Éloge du maquillage” (In Praise of Cosmetics) (1876), re-emerged in 2021 after a savvy online thrifter spotted its masterful composition on the auction website Todocolección. The discovery was brought to light on May 28, when the artwork was publicly unveiled at the Institute Français in Madrid.

The story, first reported by El Punt Avui, began when an anonymous buyer from Barcelona bid on the painting, initially listed for just €1. After a bidding war, he acquired it for €926 ($1,000). The painting’s previous owner, from Sabadell in Catalonia, inherited it and, doubting its authenticity despite the signature “Degàs,” listed it for sale. The artwork came with documents indicating it had been bought in 1940 by his ancestor, Joan Llonch Salas, a collector and former president of Banco Sabadell.

Expert Michel Schulman, along with art historians Judith Urbano and Álvaro Pascual, and consultant Juan Arjona Rey, conducted an exhaustive analysis to authenticate the piece. Their methods included pigment analysis, X-rays, and photographic studies, confirming the work’s creation in the late 19th century. Schulman, who has catalogued 1,750 Degas works, noted that “In Praise of Makeup” is related to another Degas piece, “Le client sérieux” (The Serious Client).

The authentication was further supported by labels on the artwork’s back, tracing its journey from Degas to the Spanish artist Julián Bastinos, who acquired it in Paris in 1887. The pastel travelled with Bastinos to Cairo and was later repatriated to Barcelona by his brother after Julián’s death. The piece endured the Spanish Civil War, confiscated and then recovered by Francoist forces before being returned to the Bastinos family and eventually sold to Llonch in 1940.

Previously displayed publicly in 1952, “In Praise of Makeup” had been missing for decades. Now authenticated, experts estimate its value between €7 million and €12 million ($8 million to $13 million). 


  • Featured image: Edgar Degas, Éloge du Maquillage (1876). Photo courtesy of Juan Arjona


Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up-to-date