TORONTO - It's a second-hand shopper's dream.
Two paintings dropped off anonymously to a downtown Toronto Goodwill store last fall fetched over $150,000 in total at auction on Tuesday. Waddington's sold the works, painted by late Peruvian artist Federico del Campo in Venice in the 19th century, to an anonymous phone bidder from overseas.
One painting fetched $80,700 while the other netted $78,400, including the buyer's premium.
That's over their pre-sale estimates of $30,000 to $50,000 each.
"Goodwill received these as a regular donation," said Goodwill spokeswoman Mitzie Hunter. "They just came into our store (at 4975 Dundas Street West) and the items were place in our donations sorting area for pricing.
"Our manager, when she touched the paintings, realized that they were something special and set them aside to be able to research who the artist was."
Hunter says money from the sale is going to Goodwill Industries of Toronto, which creates jobs for people with disabilities, at-risk youth and newcomers to Canada, among others.
Del Campo, who died in 1927, was considered one of the most important 19th-century painters of Venice.
"He and his teacher painted in Venice since the early 1880s," said Susan Robertson, head of the International Art Department at Waddington's auction house. "He painted for a clientele that was wealthy, European and American travellers.
"His paintings were collected by people from many different countries. When they were visiting say, Venice, they would buy an example, a memory of their trip."
The oil-on-canvas paintings sold Tuesday had the titles "A Venetian Canal With Santa Maria Della Visitazione and Santa Maria Del' Rosario" and "The Sunlit Venetian Backwater With Gondaliers."
Both were both signed, dated 1895 at Venice and were 60 centimetres by 41 centimetres.
It appears neither has ever been exhibited, said Robertson.
"The condition was very good," she said. "They were very clean, original canvases, in very good condition. There were very minor blemishes on each."
Robertson assumes the works were bought in Venice and kept in a private collection in Canada. The frames on them were from North America, she added.
Since Goodwill's 36 Toronto sites are visited by over 2,500 donors a day, it's impossible to know who dropped off the items, said Hunter.
"We don't have a mechanism for tracking donations so we accept our donations in good faith and to utilize it for the mission of the organization," she said. "And this was part of that, you know, people bringing stuff to Goodwill and Goodwill selling those items to then provide the funding for the mission."
Hunter says Goodwill has received donations of items that turned out to be very valuable but this is, in her memory, the most lucrative gift.
She adds the sale is extra important during these tough economic times.
"The support from donors is vital to Goodwill as a charitable organization," she said. "It's what has fuelled and sustained and supported Goodwill for over 74 years and the work that we do is even more vital now in these recessionary times.
"Goodwill started off in a depression in 1935, and today we're still responding, still adapting, still meeting the needs of people in our community that are trying to lift themselves out of poverty through the power of work and that's why Goodwill exists, and all of the proceeds from today's sale will go towards that mission of the charity."
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