Painting that inspired iconic Christmas card is found hanging in pensioner's home... and it's now worth £70,000

Posted on 12:59 AM by Sameer Shah

As one of the most popular Christmas card scenes of all time, it has graced mantelpieces by the million.

But for the last 40 years, an elderly woman has contented herself with the knowledge that only she had the original painting of Beneath The Snow Encumbered Branches.

She bought the work by Scottish laird Joseph Farquharson for £1,450 in the 1960s, and kept it hanging above her sideboard in the sitting room.

Next week, it is expected to fetch upwards of £70,000 at auction after she decided to move to a smaller house where there will be less room to display it.

The oil picture of a shepherd with his flock on a snow- covered field was painted more than 100 years ago by Farquharson, who enjoyed depicting wintry scenes on his sprawling estate in Aberdeenshire. This led to his nickname 'Frozen Mutton Farquharson'.

To protect him from the cold, he built a painting hut on wheels which was kitted out with a stove and was hauled around the 20,000-acre property whenever he got his brush out.

For the picture in question, Farquharson used an employee to pose as the shepherd.

At one point, the laird asked the model if he wanted to warm up in the hut as he had turned blue in the cold, but the humble hand declined so his master could finish painting.

Nick Carnow is a director at auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull in Edinburgh, where the 20in by 31in painting will be sold on Wednesday. He said: 'Farquharson had a long career but paintings by him of this quality are rare.'

It is thought that Farquharson, who died in 1935 aged 88, exhibited the painting at the Royal Academy in 1901. Its subsequent history is unknown until the current owner bought it from art dealer Richard Green of Bond Street 40 years ago.

The card company WN Sharpe bought the rights to the picture more than 30 years ago. It has since been bought out by Hallmark Cards, which now has the rights.

Jo Marchbank, of Hallmark Cards, said: 'This painting is one of our most popular Christmas cards.

'It is probably something to do with the unique atmosphere Farquharson creates, the dramatic yet subtle depiction of a winter landscape.'

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