15-Year-Old History Amateur Corrects Mistakes of Art Experts From Versailles and Sotheby’s

Maria Denisyuk, 15-year-old student from Belarus, has helped find a portrait of a Danish princess, correct wrong attribution of a portrait of William V in Versailles and is ready to argue with Sotheby’s about a portrait of another historical figure.

Maria is extremelly keen on history – she knows generations of the European nobility by sight, and studies the Internet, books and archives for historical facts.


Maria Denisyuk, 15-year-old school student from Minsk, loves history and knows generations of European nobility by memory. Photo credit: kp.by

Recently the girl took up a new curious habit. She started examining art collections of the world’s leading museums and auction houses. This has led to a number of discoveries of wrong historical attribution – so far Maria spotted four mistakes and two of them were corrected after her appeals.

In February 2015 the girl spotted a “Portrait of an unknown” at a French auction. The work was attributed to Sir Peter Lely, the dominant portrait painter to the English court in the middle of XVII century. The student noticed a huge difference from the style of Lely and soon realized the picture was painted later, around 1670s based of the outfit of the lady in the portrait.

Maria was sure that the woman wasn’t someone unknown – she recognized it was Ulrika Eleonora, a Danish princess and Queen of Sweden.

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The girl has a huge collection of portrait of historical figures in her computer. Photo credit: citydog.by

“I didn’t intend to do anything, I was just collecting facts for myself”, Maria told the media. However, she decided to share her discovery after she spotted the picture on the website of Bonhams auction some time later. The description cited a different author but the lady in the picture still remained “unknown”.

“I wrote an e-mail to the attributor (his contacts were on the auction’s website), and attached the copies of two pictures to the letter. A few days later he wrote back, thanked me and said he would pass the information on to the buyer”, the Belarusian student recalled.


Ulrika Eleonora. The portrait on the left was auctioned in England, the portrait on the right is the original from a museum in Sweden

The girl found out later that the picture is now kept in the Danish Museum of National History, Frederiksborg Castle, where Ulrika used to live. She also found an article by the English attributor dated August 2016 – three months after her e-mail – saying that “the princess returned home”.

Another amusing discovery by Maria is connected with Versailles and the portrait of William V, Duke of Bavaria, whose portrait was wrongly marked as the portrait of a German general and prince Bernard of Saxe-Weimar. The student quickly collected proofs of the theory and wrote an e-mail to the museum.


William V, Duke of Bavaria

She received a response from a Mr. Olivier: “He called me madame, thanked and said that he would pass the information to the experts. A week later they’ve changed the description of the picture on Versailles website! It’s nice to know that I was right and the people from Versailles have admitted it!” 

At present Maria is investigating two other portraits – one kept in Versailles and another auctioned at Sotheby’s.

15-year-old also enjoys comparing portraits of XVII-XVIII centuries nobility with photos of their descendants, who lived in XX century. Resemblance in most cases is stricking!



When asked about her future plans, Maria remains silent. But she is learning foreign languages and communicating a lot with art experts!


Will the girl be a big name in the art in future? Photo credit: citydog.by

Sources: kp.by, citydog.by.