NEW YORK — A 17th century portrait that once hung over the fireplace of Elizabeth Taylor's Bel Air home — and only recently reattributed to the Dutch master Frans Hals — is expected to fetch up to $1 million at auction.
"Portrait of a Man," painted in the early 1630s, is being offered at Christie's sale of Old Masters on Wednesday.
A Hals scholar, Seymour Slive, had listed the painting as a "doubtful" Hals in a 1974 catalog, based on a black and white photo of the work.
After Taylor hung it in her home in the 1950s, "It academically fell off the radar," said Nicholas Hall, head of Christie's Old Master paintings.
But last summer, Christie's and Pieter Biesboer, the retired curator of Old Master paintings at the Frans Hals Museum in Holland, confirmed the work was by Hals.
"From 20 yards away one could tell that it was an utterly authentic Hals, a totally characteristic picture with all the bravura, brushwork ... the very expressive face," Hall said in telephone interview.
"On top of everything, there's a signature — 'FH' just to the right of the figure itself," he added.
Biesboer "absolutely had no hesitation in attributing it to Hals," Hall said.
Before its renewed reattribution, the painting had been estimated to sell for $70,000 to $100,000 on Wednesday. Its current estimate is $700,000 to $1 million.
The painting, showing a gentleman in a black coat and white collar with his hands folded, came into Taylor's possession in the 1950s, soon after her art dealer father, Francis Taylor, acquired and gave it to her.
She hung it over the fireplace in the living room of her California home, near an iconic lithograph portrait of herself by Andy Warhol that sold at Christie's in December for $662,500.
"Portrait of a Man" was the only Old Master she owned, said Hall.
She was very fond of it. In 1956, while recuperating from back surgery at New York Presbyterian Medical Center, she had her hospital room decorated with "Portrait of a Man" and several other paintings, including a Renoir and Monet.
"She really digs the Frans Hals," her husband, Mike Todd, told reporters at the time.
Other paintings from Taylor's collection will be sold by Christie's in London on Feb. 7-8.
In December, the auction house sold her collection of jewelry, fashion and memorabilia. Among the highlights was a pearl necklace that sold for $11.8 million.
The screen and stage icon died in March at age 79.