Byline: Caroline Gammell
AN UNKNOWN Rubens painting last night shattered the record for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.
The Massacre of the Innocents, painted between 1609 and 1611, was sold for pounds 49,506,650.
It was expected to reach between pounds 4m to pounds 6m but was bought for the record-breaking price by a private collector in the auction room.
The painting depicts the moment when King Herod ordered the slaughter of all newborn boys to get rid of the Messiah.
The painting and its 17th century Antwerp surrounding wooden panel are still in near perfect condition.
Last night's purchase beats the sale of Vincent van Gogh's Portrait of Doctor Gachet which went under the hammer at Christie's in New York for pounds 44,378,696.
The Massacre of the Innocents was only properly identified a few weeks ago by Sotheby's Senior Old Masters Painting Specialist George Gordon. Until then, Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) work had been incorrectly attributed to the more minor artist Jan van den Hoecke.
Mr Gordon said: ``The chance to see this work is extremely exciting for collectors and scholars alike.
``For such a work of genius by such a great painter to languish under a false attribution to a minor artist for so long is surely an injustice, but in the end quality will out.''
It was sold exactly 22 years after a similarly important piece Samson and Delilah reached pounds 2. …