The painting, an original study for the work
called "Tough Call," shows three umpires pondering whether to
halt a game as raindrops begin to fall. It became one of the
best-known Rockwell illustrations after being published on the
cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1949.
Rockwell gave a signed copy to John "Beans" Reardon, a baseball
umpire featured prominently in the work. Sandra Sprinkle,
Reardon's granddaughter, later inherited the piece and put it
above the mantle of her Dallas home for about a decade, it said.
After her death in 2015, her husband Gene Sprinkle sold the
couple's home and moved to a retirement community, where his
nephew took a look at the piece and noticed brush strokes.
"We always thought it was a print, but we hung it over our
fireplace because it was signed by Norman Rockwell to Beans
Reardon," Gene Sprinkle told Reuters by telephone on Monday.
Sprinkle, a 74-year-old retiree, said he agreed to let his
nephew contact Dallas-based Heritage, which determined it was an
original oil, painted as a study for the final version.
The buyer has asked to remain anonymous, according to Heritage
"Sandra and her grandfather were very close," Sprinkle said.
"Whenever people came to our house to visit, she was always
proud to show it off and tell them about her grandfather."
(Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing
by Sandra Maler)
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