According to the Virginia-Pilot, volunteer Wendy Hawkins was going through donated art at the Hotline Pink Thrift Shop in January when she came across a peculiar wood engraving, which was left in the store’s sorting room to be priced.
“One day I saw this, with a bunch of other paintings lined up on the floor, and I said, ‘This is old, this is something special,'” she recalled to WAVY.
Hawkins got the go-ahead to take the work to Melanie Smith, an accredited art appraiser and owner of Seaside Art Gallery. After cleaning up and examining the engraving, Smith confirmed the piece as an original work from Dalí.
“Everything fits,” Smith told the newspaper. “He is one of the great artists of the 20th century.”
The piece is part of a collection of 100 works by the legendary artist that illustrate each verse of Dante Alighieri’s poem, “The Divine Comedy.”
“It is rare that a work like this was just sitting in a thrift shop,” Smith said. “Most of the time, people know what it is.”
As of now, the thrift store does not know who donated the piece.
“We get things donated in the middle of the night and sometimes people just drop off things and leave, so we have no idea who donated it,” said Michael Lewis, executive director of the Outer Banks Hotline, which operates the thrift shop.
The engraving recently went up for auction and was sold to a Portsmouth couple who bought it for $1,200.
As CNN notes, a previous Dalí painting made headlines in 2012 when someone anonymously donated it to Goodwill.
The organization was able to sell the painting for $21,005 in an online auction, which went to fund 12 scholarships to help people with disabilities and disadvantages find jobs.
Thanks to his surrealist artworks, Dalí is considered one of the most prolific artists of the last century. According to Art Story, he was known for his flamboyant personality, and his work often conveyed themes of eroticism, death and decay.
His most famous works are arguably 1931’s "The Persistence of Memory,” famous for its display of melting watches against a barren landscape, and 1929’s "The Great Masturbator,” which depicts an erotic fantasy.