An Art World Mystery That Started in Hubbard Woods Winnetka IL

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An Art World Mystery That Started in Hubbard Woods in Winnetka


I live in Hubbard Woods,  the northern part of Winnetka, IL. Tony, the neighbor who lived behind me, used to walk his dog around the block and always stop at our house. We had a border collie that loved to sit in the front yard (with an electronic fence) and he would always stop to pet my dog. That's how I got to know him.

One day while we were talking, he told me an intriguing story. Admittedly, I didn't totally think it could possibly be true. But here it is. 

He said that he had come across an incredible oil painting in an English antique store. It depicted Mary holding the infant Jesus in her lap as her cousin and John the Baptist looked on. The shopkeeper told Tony that the artwork could be from the Renaissance. 

I knew Tony as a carpenter since he often did work in his garage which abutted our back fence. But he was also an amateur artist and recognized something special in that antique store in 1995.

He asked some friends to invest with him and they bought the painting for $30,000. From that moment until his untimely death in 2022,  his life was consumed working to authenticate the painting as that of the famous Renaissance painter Raphael.

On February 1, 2023, I opened the Wall Street Journal to see this headline:

"Is She or Isn't She? Riches Are at Stake in Art World Mystery"

I remember telling my husband, "oh, another story like Tony's." And then I read the first line of the article, "Anthony Ayers had a hunch that he'd found a masterpiece."  It really was my neighbor Tony.

The article goes on to say that if the Raphael is proven authentic, it would be a seismic discovery. Raphael was a giant of the Italian Renaissance with fewer than 200 works and anything he created would be worth a fortune. 

At this moment, there are 40 people (along with his widow) who have invested more than $500,000 to identify the painting. 

Possible Raphael masterpiece                 Several investors hold the painting in its storage vault in Illinois


One expert felt the painting was a Raphael "in the early and transitional period of his Florentine sojourn." Another thinks it may have been painted by a Raphael admirer named Antonio del Caraiolo.

Artificial intelligence has also been used on the painting and its findings strongly point to Raphael. They feel they have the proof they need. One investor says, "We have the science behind us. We have experts behind us. It took us 30 years to build a case."  The world of old art, however, is not so quick to jump on the bandwagon. 

It's been a long exasperating journey for Tony's investors. One of them even named his newborn son Raphael - that boy is now 17. The investors are hoping that more scholars will get involved and give the painting more attention.

Now, in 2023, almost 30 years after Tony found the painting, I'm wishing I hadn't been so quick to think the painting couldn't be a real masterpiece. It's amazing that a neighbor, right here in Hubbard Woods, would confound the art world with his amazing discovery. 

My fingers are crossed for the investors. Until its painter is positively identified, the painting remains unseen in a vault in Illinois.

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Comments (12)

Anna "Banana" Kruchten
HomeSmart Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ

What an interesting story Margaret! That would pretty fantastic if it turns out your neighbor Tony really did discover this old painting.  Incredible actually.  Thanks for sharing it

Mar 01, 2023 02:39 PM
Margaret Goss

I hope it's the real thing too!

Mar 01, 2023 02:43 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Margaret - thank you for sharing this - keep us posted.  

Mar 01, 2023 03:06 PM
Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
Relocation to NW AZ with elbow room & more freedom

Indeed an intriguing story. Hopefully it will be authenticated for the widow and the investors.

Mar 01, 2023 07:09 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening Margret,

What a fascinating story! I'm pulling for for the widow and investors! Please keep us updated on the outcome.

Mar 01, 2023 08:08 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Margaret- that really is an exciting story!!!  I too hope that it turns out to be authentic!!!   Keep us informed. 

Mar 01, 2023 08:23 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Margaret what a story, offline I have a story to share with you one of these days let's talk, Endre

Mar 01, 2023 09:22 PM
Margaret Goss


Mar 02, 2023 08:15 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Margaret. Must say this is quite a story and my hopes are that the dream comes true and it is real. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your day.

Mar 02, 2023 04:47 AM
Ray Henson
eXp Realty of California, Inc. (lic. #01878277) - Elk Grove, CA

What a fun story to hear.  It is a shame that your neighbor did not get to see the painting authenticated before he died.  It is remarkable that the painting still has not been definitively authenticated after $500,000 had been invested in the cause.

Mar 02, 2023 09:21 AM
Margaret Goss

There seems to be some hesitation on the part of the art world to dig deeper into this. Not sure why but I hope they can get resolution sooner rather than later.

Mar 03, 2023 01:45 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

What an intriguing story, Margaret. And how cool that you knew Tony, too. I hope it turns out to be a true Raphael - just imagine. You do hear stories of paintings being discovered now and then.


Mar 02, 2023 09:26 AM
Margaret Goss

Right - and don't we love those stories

Mar 03, 2023 01:42 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

How exciting! I love this story - I hope a decision on the artist is made soon!

Mar 04, 2023 05:00 AM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Margaret, 

It is amazing that they have not been able to authenticate this art.  With all the technical gains in the last 30 years they should be able to pinpoint the time it was painted to give them a basis where to start looking.  This is an amazing story and could be made into a docudrama!

Mar 04, 2023 08:25 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Artificial intelligence has also been used on the painting and its findings strongly point to Raphael.   What a great story - my fingers are crossed 

Mar 04, 2023 02:16 PM