Museum fails in bid for historic paintings

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THE British Museum was yesterday outbid by just a few thousand pounds in attempting to acquire a unique piece of history: two recently discovered medieval paintings that survived the 1834 Palace of Westminster fire.

The museum was unable to fight off competition from an anonymous English buyer, who bought the pair for pounds 135,000.

The original images of a prophet and a seraphim are barely discernible. The importance of the works is that they are the only recorded surviving fragments of the medieval wooden ceiling from the Painted Chamber in the old Palace, which had been the most important royal residence of the kings of England in the Middle Ages.

The paintings were found in a Bristol attic and offered for sale at the Bristol Auction Rooms. The sellers had no idea how the paintings came into their possession.

The paintings are believed to date from the 1260s: early records refer to a new ceiling after a fire in 1263. They may be the work of Master Walter of Durham, the leading royal painter of his day.