SECURITY has been stepped up around a painting donated to a church in Andalucia after an unauthorised advert for its sale sparked a bidding war.
Art dealers from across Europe and America bombarded the bishopric of Quesada, in Jaen, with offers of up to €200,000 for the painting by Spanish artist Rafael Zabaleta.
The oil on canvas was put up for sale by the parish priest, without the permission of the bishopric, in an effort to raise much-needed funds for maintenance work.
But the artwork, depicting St Peter and St. Paul, has been placed in secure storage amid fears that its increased profile could make it a target for thieves.
Expressionist Zabaleta donated the painting to the church in his hometown in 1940.
The masterpiece is a rare example of religion in the Spaniard’s work, which more commonly depicted scenes of peasants and rural life.