'Lost' Turners return to spotlight: Two watercolours found in an attic clear-out go on sale today, 50 years after they were last seen, writes Dalya Alberge

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TWO TURNER watercolours found by an elderly widow during a clear-out of her attic, go on sale today. They were last seen more than half a century ago when they were mislaid in a taxi, it was thought.

One of the watercolours is an imaginary impression of the pyramids; the other, an image of Stonehenge, viewed with artistic licence to heighten the sunset.

They are expected to fetch an estimated pounds 40,000 when they are sold in Nottingham by Mellors & Kirk. According to its spokeswoman, the seller - who wishes to remain anonymous - inherited them from her father: 'She knew that they were Turner, but as they were not to her taste, she stored them away.'

The works are believed to have been painted in 1822 for Walter Fawkes, a descendant of Guy Fawkes and one of Turner's most ardent patrons. Fawkes acquired his first Turner in 1804: over the next 20 years, he amassed some 250 drawings and six major paintings. Their business relationship developed into true friendship: Turner regularly visited Fawkes at Farnley Hall in Yorkshire.

In 1890, the two watercolours were sold at Christie's for 220 guineas (pounds 231) to Sir Reginald Hardy. According to one story, the watercolours were lost in 1939, on their way to Christie's; however, Mellors & Kirk's research suggests that when they failed to sell, they were sold to a member of the present owner's family.

Turner's pyramid - painted, as one scholar put it, 'like one of his Alpine peaks' - is particularly interesting in that it is such a confrontational composition: the triangular block of stone, placed at the forefront of the picture, creates an almost abstract effect.

Scholars are certain that the artist never saw the pyramids. He based his watercolour on someone else's impression of it, reinventing and rearranging the trio of pyramids so that he reproduces the same pyramid three times.

(Photographs omitted)