The signature of the 'Old Master' Titian has been found on a Renaissance painting of The Last Supper in Ledbury Parish Church, and now its value could run into millions.

But the painting, which art experts believe was bought by local grandee John Skipp (also spelt Skippe or Skype), back in the eighteenth century, could feasibly have ended up in a skip in more recent times.

Speaking at a conference in the church in August 2018, when the names of various Old Masters were already in the mix, but before the Titian signature was discovered, the Rev Keith Hilton-Turvey said the picture had become “increasingly dark” over the years.

Some had even believed that the church “ought to get rid of it”.

Speaking this week to the Reporter, Mr Hilton-Turvey reflected on the good news, concerning the new discovery, and also its implications.

But despite the painting's likely value, it seems that it is set remain in Ledbury Parish Church, where it will doubtless become a major tourist attraction.

He said: "The latest news updates the last set of information, regarding attribution and a signature. We hope it will help bring more visitors to Ledbury, and the church, to enjoy all we all have to offer."

But he added: "You will understand if I don’t describe what security is in place, or what will be in place."

However, it is a fact that Ledbury's large police station is barely a stone's throw away from the church.

The 13ft-long painting was spotted as something special by artist and conservator Ronald Moore, and investigations and a successful restoration took place a few years ago.

But it was only recently that ultra-violet light was used to spot Titian’s signature, and one of the apostles is now thought to be a self-portrait of Titian himself.

This theory is further boosted by the discovery of an under-drawing, which Mr Moore has described as “the mark of a major painter”.

Other characters in the painting resemble Titian's sons, with Mr Moore suggesting that the work, perhaps left unfinished by Titian, may have been completed as a form of family portrait by his son and other artists.

But if the hand of Titian, whose real name was Tiziano Vecellio, played a key role in the painting’s execution, it’s value could be astronomical.

One Titian work, A Sacra Conversazione, sold for $16,882,500 at Sotheby's in 2011.

If it is really a Titian, then it is proof that the eighteenth century Ledbury grandee, John Skipp, had a good eye. He probably acquired the painting when he was on the Grand Tour.

This was a lengthy visit to Italy and possibly Greece which was commonly undertaken by sons of the aristocracy, to add a final polish to their education, often after university.

The Skipp’s were long-term residents of Upper Hall in Ledbury and their numbers included at least one MP and a Bishop of Hereford.

The painting was donated to the Ledbury Parish Church – St Michael and All Angels – more than a century ago, in 1908; but it appears to have been little loved.

Until recently, most people visiting St Michael and All Angels Church in Ledbury have paid more attention to the 19th century copy of Leonardo’s Last Supper, which is at the altar. But the church’s other Last Supper, on the north wall, is an authentic Renaissance work: described as “something of a masterpiece” by Moore.

Questions of both value and insurance were evaded as far back at the August 2018 conference, although the Reporter was informed afterwards that the church was already holding “great discussions about the insurance”.

Back in 2018, other names of Old Master being mentioned for possible attribution, or partial attribution, included Veronese and Tintoretto.

Mr Moore said one of the heads was "absolutely stupendous in quality", and he added: "Not many people could have painted it."

Now, it seems, the answers are being brought fully into the light, with the help of science and research.