Is this Jean-Leon Gerome painting fake or fortune?
Wednesday: Fake or Fortune?; (BBC One, 9pm)
Imagine unearthing a long-lost artwork and discovering it’s worth a potentially life-changing fortune. It’s the stuff of dreams, right?
It’s also exactly what has happened to several people who have appeared on Fake or Fortune? It could be said that the BBC itself has uncovered a gem with this series too.
If you’ve never caught an episode, what have you been doing for the past 10 years? You’ve certainly been missing a treat.
Its ninth series began last week when art dealer and historian Philip Mould and presenter Fiona Bruce tried to verify that an object found in the long grass of a Norfolk home was in fact a sculpture by the revered Yorkshire-born artist Henry Moore. It’s not the first time the programme has tackled a potential Moore, and it probably won’t be the last.
Alongside producer Simon Shaw, Mould is one of the show’s creators. Born in Wirral in 1960, he became interested in art and antiques at a young age and began dealing in his teens. Since then he has sold works to such institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. He’s also been an honorary art adviser to the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
His TV work includes appearing as an Antiques Roadshow expert and both writing and presenting Channel 4’s Changing Faces.
However, it’s Fake or Fortune? that has really made him famous – and if he and Bruce ever fancy a career change, they could surely set themselves up as private eyes. They’ve certainly honed their detective skills while making the series.
In each edition, they’re confronted by a painting, drawing or sculpture owned by a member of the public or an institution; each believes it may be in the possession of a previously unknown masterpiece. It’s Bruce and Mould’s job to find out whether they’re right.
To do so, they consult various experts who offer their opinions. Science is often brought into play in an effort to identify the paint used as well as quirks common to a particular artist which might otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. The duo also carry out their own research before a decision is reached.
Among the most memorable episodes have been efforts to prove that Turner painted three scenes belonging to the National Museum of Wales, which had been dismissed as fakes in the 1950s, works believed to be by Munnings and Winston Churchill found in a coal hole, an early Lucien Freud and a work sold twice by Mould himself before being proven to be by the great landscape artist John Constable.
Occasionally, heated discussions have taken place, with an effort to get sketchbooks purportedly belonging to Toulouse-Lautrec verified turning out to be particularly frustrating.
No doubt Bruce and Mould sometimes hope for more straightforward cases but, frankly, it’s the more awkward ones that would even test the little grey cells of Hercule Poirot that really grab the attention.
Tonight, they are investigating a small oil painting of a man praying in a mosque, believed to be the work of Jean-Leon Gerome.
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