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Fremont attic’s $50,000 ‘mystery’ painting

FREMONT — A lucrative piece of art history and a whiff of mystery apparently have been hiding for years in the Patterson House attic, where staffers recently discovered a nearly 90-year-old painting by a famous New York artist.

The portrait of a Patterson family in-law has been appraised at up to $50,000, said Christie Dentry, manager of the Patterson House.

The historic home is part of Ardenwood Historic Farm, a 205-acre Fremont park.

“We call it ‘The Mystery Painting,’” Dentry said. “At first, we didn’t know who was in the portrait, or who painted it.”

Dentry’s staffers soon found on the painting the signature of John Koch, an artist known for capturing New York City’s social scene in the mid-20th century.

But that raised more questions: How did one of Koch’s earliest known paintings end up 3,000 miles from the artist’s Manhattan home? And how is it connected to Fremont’s Patterson House, a 16-room Victorian-era mansion originally owned by 19th-century gold-miner-turned-farmer, George Washington Patterson?

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Chris DeBenedetti