The Third Leader: Family values

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The Independent Online

Should you have a maiden aunt with impeccable tastes, little interest in money and no other living relatives, might I remind you, in the politest possible way, that it is not long now until Christmas, which can be a very lonely time to be on one's own?

This is a perhaps presumptuous but well-meaning appeal somehow prompted by the news that two paintings owned by the late Miss Jean Preston have been identified as the missing panels of Fra Angelico's San Marco altarpiece and are shortly expected to fetch more than £1m at auction.

Should you be in want of such a maiden aunt and windfall, chin up and rejoice in the good fortune of others and splendid news for the art world: I like to think Independent readers fall into that admirable category of people on The Antiques Roadshow magnificently unimpressed by the unexpectedly high value of a family treasure, and adamant that it will never be sold as its beauty and sentimental value are what matters.

Still, do keep your eyes open, as lost masterpieces seem to be turning up all over the place at present. The Queen has recently discovered that she has a Caravaggio she didn't know she had, while another has emerged from a church loft in Genoa to go with the one found hanging on a Jesuit refectory wall in Dublin in 1990. My favourite, though, remains the janitor who found a Mondrian in a cupboard at the Playboy Club, New York, (the club had taken over the artist's old studio).

Finally, if you are a maiden aunt, might I suggest a quick check of the inventory?