London, Nov 24 : A 19th century painting covered in dust, and found behind an old mattress in an attic, has turned out to be a masterpiece worth 50,000 pounds.
John Everett Millais's portrait of Effie Gray was given to a 45-year-old woman on her ninth birthday, and kept it in her loft for years.
She came to know about the painting, when she put her house up for sale.
The painting shed light on a 150-year-old scandal of a love triangle involving Pre-Raphaelite artist Millais.
The portrait is of a woman called Effie Gray who was married to Millais' mentor and art critic John Ruskin at the time.
Millais, whose work includes the famous Ophelia painting, met and fell in love with Gray in 1853 while he used her for another painting, the Order of Release.
The portrait of Effie was bought in 1972 by the unnamed vendor's mother who gave it to her daughter as a birthday gift.
The painting was discovered by auctioneer Duncan Chilcott, who was valuing the woman's belongings.
"Up in the attic she wanted me to look at a table. On the other side of the room behind some old mattresses I saw the painting leaning against the wall," the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
"It was covered in thick dust and I was astonished when I blew it off and saw what was beneath.
"The lady selling it said it was purchased for her by her mother as a ninth birthday present.
"But judging by the layer of dust on it, it had been in the attic for a very long time, during which it has been lost to the art world," he added.
Elizabeth Chilcott, who runs auctioneers Chilcotts in Tiverton, Devon, said that there was a great deal of passion in the picture.
"We don't know for sure as to when exactly it was painted," she said.
"What is interesting about it is that her wedding ring finger is hidden by her other finger and a shadow so it is intriguing as to whether she was wearing it or not at the time," she added.