Presumed lost drawings buried under piles of dusty antiques, paintings and papers have been confirmed as the work of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists, Alberto Giacometti.

The drawings were discovered in the many and diverse effects of the late antiques dealer Eila Grahame, known for not selling to a customer if she took against them.

Grahame died in 2010 and the Cambridge auction house Cheffins was instructed in 2016 to clear and sell the effects from her shop on Kensington Church Street in west London.

Martin Millard, a director at Cheffins, said a mention of two possible Giacometti head portraits had been made in a previous valuation of Grahame’s effects – but they were presumed lost or sold because “they were not immediately evident as we were going round the property”.

Millard added: “At the time we didn’t know if it was two pieces of paper, two large sketches, whether they were done on the back of a cigarette packet or whether they were done on large canvases. We didn’t know what we were looking for.

“We eventually found them buried under piles of dust-covered antiques, paintings and drawings.”

What the auction house discovered were pencil sketches on a piece of paper. On one side were studies of various heads and on the other a nude woman standing. They look like Giacometti and were signed and dated 1947 but that, of course, does not mean they are genuine.

“That’s when the work started,” said Millard. “That’s when we had to prove it was a genuine Giacometti, so we’ve had a lot of fun with that, a lot of sleepless nights.” read more