Is it authentic or isn’t it? That question is just the tip of the iceberg when the British-mystery-meets-Antiques-Roadshow-meets-Art-of-the-Western-World series, Fake or Fortune?, returns to local PBS stations this Spring.
The art world is full of crime and intrigue. And money. Lots of it. For centuries, master works have been bought and sold for millions upon millions of dollars, plundered for the sake of passion and personal (and even national) gain, and forged for the same reasons.
For individuals who have spent smaller sums on great paintings, the process of authenticating a work’s provenance can be daunting, even with the help of the Fake or Fortune? team. Determining whether a painting was created by a renowned artist can be as much a “case” to be solved as a suspicious death in Midsomer Murders.
But instead of DCI Barnaby and DS Gavin Troy sifting through clues in the fictional whodunit, we have two art historians and art dealers, Bendor Grosvenor and Philip Mould (author of The Art Detective: Adventures of an Antiques Roadshow Appraiser), and journalist and Antiques Roadshow UK presenter, Fiona Bruce, leading real-life art investigations in the third series of Fake or Fortune?
In the first episode, the experts have not one but two challenging investigations concerning works that might or might not have been created by the much-loved and much-faked English Romantic painter John Constable.
The owner of “Yarmouth Jetty” hadn’t believed that the painting she kept under the bed in her London home was an authentic Constable, but when the team learns that the previous owner has a close connection to the Constable family, skepticism gives way to excitement. And ever since a couple purchased “A Sea Beach Brighton” from the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the early ’90s for a fraction of its possible value, they have been desperate to prove its authenticity. Philip thinks the proof lies in other Constable paintings in US galleries. Does it, though?
Paint analysis suggests one picture has a murky past, and an X-ray leads to one of the biggest shocks of the series. What other surprises are in store? You have to watch to find out.
The focus of the second episode is English portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough. Philip and Bendor believe they have identified several of Gainsborough’s missing works — including a portrait of Joseph Gape, mayor of St. Albans in the 18th century, and “Imaginary Landscape” — out of 17,000 paintings listed as “artist unknown” from the more than 100,000 whose images are posted online for the Your Paintings initiative.
But thinking the works are by Gainsborough and convincing Hugh Belsey, the world’s leading Gainsborough expert, and conservationist Aviva Burnstock, are two very different things. Philip made his name in the art world with his Gainsborough discoveries, and his reputation is on the line as decision time looms.
And in the third episode, the team travels to France, Switzerland, and Holland to gather evidence that a large oval picture by French post-impressionist painter Edouard Vuillard, purchased by a scriptwriter at auction, is the real deal, even though it doesn’t appear in the official record of Vuillard’s works.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, but proving a painting’s provenance is clearly more complicated. With evidence in hand, the team must get the approval of the Wildenstein Institute in Paris — the body who notoriously rejected a highly credible Monet in the very first episode of Fake or Fortune? — in order for the painting in question to be sanctioned as genuine.
Fake or Fortune? III is confirmed for broadcast on the following local PBS member stations starting this month. Check your local listings or contact the station that serves your area for air dates and times.