A PENSIONER unwittingly turned down a free £13million Van Gogh painting — for a £1 handbell.
Gaye Horrell, 76, was talked into spurning the landscape in 1967.
Neither she nor the owners knew it was by the renowned Dutch artist.
The 1885 work was later identified as Peasant Woman in Front of a Farmhouse.
It was sold last month for an unknown sum but the estimate was between £12million and £13million.
Gaye recalled how the art could have been hers when her former in-laws asked if she wanted any item from their Staffordshire farmhouse before they held a sale.
She asked for the picture — which had been given to the family in 1929 as payment for farm supplies.
Church treasurer Gaye, of Ashton Keynes, Wilts, said: “The painting looked old, very dirty and uncared for, and had a hole in it, but I still liked it. They persuaded me it wasn’t worth having and not to bother with it.”
She added: “Oh dear, how naive of me. Of course, in those days I couldn’t argue with them and ended up with a brass handbell. I learnt my lesson the hard way.”
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The painting was sold in 1967 for £4 to a local auction house. It was next seen in a junk shop in North London where a buyer, who paid £45, spotted the faint signature “Vincent” on it.
Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum verified it was an original in 1970.
The painting changed hands several times before the latest sale at The European Fine Art Fair in Holland.