Johnny van Haeften Brueghel oak backlijst picture frameAt Frieze Masters Johnny Van Haeften will be exhibiting a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger that has been unknown for the last 400 years.

John Davies Framing were charged with not only producing an appropriate new frame for the piece, but also with restoring the termite infested 19th Century frame for use with a reproduction of the painting.

It has been owned by the same English family since it was purchased directly from the artist’s studio in Antwerp in 1611.

After its purchase the work disappeared from public view into the household of the family, and for four centuries its existence has remained unknown even to Brueghel scholars.

It is a painting based on one created by Brueghel’s father, Pieter the Elder, three years before his death and shows a relatively obscure Biblical subject, “The Census at Bethlehem”.

The painting has spent the last 70 years or so in the Rift Valley in Africa and the existing frame had seen better days. Johnny tells a story that when the picture was first moved from the dining room wall in its east African home, a long-dead and desiccated gecko fell out of the back.

The painting will make its public debut at Frieze Masters. Cleaned, relined, restored and reframed “The Census at Bethlehem” will be the highlight of Van Haeften’s stand with a pricetag of £6m.

Frieze Masters, October 17-20