Today's award goes to the valuations department of Christie's auctioneers in London, England.
A lost masterpiece by Venetian artist Titian which was once owned by King Charles I and worth millions was mistakenly sold at auction for just £8,000 [about US $12,287], it emerged yesterday.
The £4 million 16th century painting - Salome with the Head of St John the Baptist - was originally unearthed during a house clearance in 1993.
Its unsuspecting owners took it to auction house Christie's in London where they were told that it was probably 'from the school of Titian', but not by the hand of the master himself.
Assured that cleaning the painting would be an unnecessary expense David Seton Pollok-Morris Dickson, 60, and his sister Susan Marjorie Glencorse Priestley, 62, agreed a valuation.
When it went under the hammer 12 months later in December 1994 they watched as lot 348 was sold for its reserve price of just £8,000.
Only later after the painting was sold on again in 2001, this time to Milan-based private collector Luigi Koelliker, was its true value revealed. And ironically, all it took was a little cleaning.
. . .
In January last year it was put up for auction by Sotheby's as part of Mr Koelliker's collection --with a guide price of between £2.6 million and £4 million [between US $4 million and 6.14 million].
Sotheby's described it as a 'remarkable painting, in which the seductress Salome strains under the weight of John the Baptist's severed head'.
There's more at the link.
The original owners sued Christie's, of course, and the latter hastily settled out of court for an undisclosed (but doubtless substantial) sum. I'm not surprised . . . the negative publicity of a long-drawn-out court fight, over so doofus-ish a mistake, would probably have cost them a lot more than the true value of the painting!