How many times can a renowned artist's work turn up in attics?

Last year, the 18th-century painting, "Portrait of a Lady by Flora" by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo was discovered in the attic of a French chateau and sold at Sotheby's for $3.1 million.

Now comes another Tiepolo find -- a pen and ink drawing titled "A Large Group of Punchinelli" [puppet characters] that was also ferreted from an attic, this time in an English manor house. Reportedly valued at $270,000, it goes on the auction block on Nov. 16.

Reasons why

Whether in France or England, this artist's works got stashed in a belfry by all appearances.

Why? Why would high-valued pictures by a famous artist be kept out of sight? I posed this question last year when Tiepolo's "Portrait of a Lady" was discovered. Reuters surmised that the woman's semi-nudity made it too risqué for its time and that it was an embarrassment to see it in anyone's living quarters.

I didn't get around to saying this at the time, but Reuter's rationale is hilarious. We were talking about the 18th century when famous painters like Jean-Baptiste Greuze aimed to "amuse the senses" with sexually suggestive imagery of young women, as noted by art historians Paul Duro and Michael Greenhalgh in their 1995 book "Essential Art History."

In addition to the lecherous Greuze, fellow lech Francois Boucher whose doll-like female figures were routinely unclothed on the pretext that they illustrate ancient myths.

And who can forget Jean-Honore Fragonard's painting "The Swing?" Talk about risqué, and this painting had a woman on a swing swaying high above a man in the bushes looking up her skirt. And it hangs unblushingly in the exhibit halls of the Wallace Museum in London.

How risqué, then, is the Tiepolo "Portrait of a Lady" if all you see is one bared breast?

The exact amount of skin shows in his painting Apelles Painting Campaspe, which hangs in full view at the Getty Museum.

Sign of the Times

By the way, like so many 18th-century paintings of half-dressed women by men, male figures pictured are all fully dressed. I mention this given the news that Jessica Chastain agreed to nude scenes in the TV series "Scenes from a Marriage" only if her co-star Oscar Iscar was also stripped down.

This could be the beginning of something.

As for why Tiepolo's artworks were held in attics, saying they were too bawdy surely can't be the reason for sequestering the drawing of puppets. Another possible explanation for hiding both the painting and drawing: they're not very good unless you favor a slapdash pile of puppet characters heaped on each other and a portrait that is expressionless.

Escape artists

This is where the auction houses do their best work. It's their job to bring the seller the highest sale price, and their method is simple: overstate the importance of the found art and suggest that burying them was an oversight.

The hype has already begun. Dreweatts, a London auction house where the drawing will be put up for sale, calls it "one of the highlights of the upcoming sale."