Image source, DreweattsImage caption, The drawing was found in bubble wrap and leaning against a wall in an attic

A drawing by a great Italian artist of the 18th Century is to go under the hammer after it was found in a loft.

The work by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo was uncovered at Weston Hall, near Towcester, Northamptonshire, ahead of the manor house being put up for sale.

Henrietta Sitwell, whose family owned Weston for 300 years, said it was one of many "exciting discoveries".

Auctioneers Dreweatts said it was "probably the most important find" at the house and could fetch £250,000.

The auction of the hall's contents, called Weston Hall and the Sitwells: A Family Legacy, takes place on 16 and 17 November.

Ms Sitwell said her great-uncle, the writer Osbert Sitwell, bought the drawing in 1936, and no-one had known where it was until last year.

"As I peeled back the wrapping, I instantly recognised it as something special," she added.

"It was thrilling to think that such a captivating and important work of art by such a revered Old Master was just lying there gathering dust over the years."

Tiepolo (1696-1770) was described by the National Gallery as "the greatest Italian Rococo painter" whose main subjects were Christian and mythical figures.

The work features Punchinello, the hook-nosed, humpbacked clowns who were some of the stock characters taken from the Commedia dell' Arte – an early form of professional theatre.

It has been given a "conservative estimate" of £150,000-£250,000, Dreweatts said.

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