School paperweight found to be £750,000 Barbara Hepworth sculpture

The work of art will go on public display at the Royal Cornwall Museum


An old paperweight which for years gathered dust in a school head teacher's office turned out to be a Barbara Hepworth sculpture worth a fortune.

Staff were stunned to discover the small bronze sculpture was the work of the famous artist whose work stands outside the United Nations building in New York, after it was taken for assessment on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.

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And the overlooked paperweight has since increased in value almost ten-fold, from between £60,000 and £80,000 to around £750,000 following an insurance assessment Cornwall Live reports.

Now the work that had previously occupied the office at St Ives School in Cornwall is to go on public display at the Royal Cornwall Museum.

Staff were stunned to find out the sculpture's true value on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow

The work, called Oval Form, was created by the renowned artist who lived in St Ives until her death in 1975 in a fire at her studio there.

Originally from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, Dame Hepworth became one of the few women sculptors to enjoy international success following the Second World War. Her most famous work stands outside the United Nations building in New York.

The work was first valued on the Antiques Roadshow in 2012, but has since soared in price.

St Ives head teacher Jan Woodhouse recalled her predecessor David Harris had described it as "probably the most expensive paperweight in the world".

Mrs Woodhouse said: "We knew it was valuable and we knew artwork had gone up in value, but we weren't expecting it to be as much as this.

"I am delighted we've been able to find somewhere where it can go on display. It certainly should not be in a school safe where no one can see it."

The sculpture belongs to the Cornwall Arts Collection which holds art works in trust for Cornish schools for the benefit of future generations.

It was originally given to the school by Dame Hepworth when she was a school governor and for a while was used as a prize for the school house that achieved the most academic merits.

The sculpture will form the centrepiece of a new exhibition opening at the Royal Cornwall Museum (RCM) this Friday.

Ian Wall, the director of RCM, said the sculpture formed part of a wider exhibition of work by artists who have been inspired by the land and seascapes of Cornwall.

He added: "We feel extremely privileged to be able to show many pieces from the museum's own collection enhanced by a selection of pieces on loan from Cornwall Council's Schools Art Collection.

'We hope these works of art will reach out and speak to different people in a variety of ways, people who know Cornwall intimately as well as those who don't."

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