In tonight’s episode of BBC One’s Fake or Fortune, hosted by Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould, a painting that was thought to be an artwork by ‘The Father of Surrealism’, Giorgio de Chirico, has been revealed to be a fake. The artwork, which was originally valued at an estimate of £50,000 is in fact worthless. The still life painting of fruit was purchased in a bric-a-brac shop in Hampshire over 30 years ago for just £1 – it could have been one of the best bargains in the history of Fake or Fortune.
Bob Kay, who purchased the painting, always wondered about the piece after experts at Christie’s auction house advised him to submit the picture to the de Chirico Foundation over 20 years ago. While most of the experts considered the artwork to be authentic, one was suspicious of a forgery.
In the dramatic investigation, Fiona and Philip turned up some fascinating evidence, including de Chirico’s original paint recipes and handwritten letters that could have determined the true journey of the forgotten painting. The tenacious team started their mission in Rome, where the modern master lived much for many years. Alarm bells must have rung when they learned that de Chirico is the second most forged Italian artist in history. They followed clues great and small, and it was a tiny splinter of wood that allowed the investigators to pin point the year in which the picture was created. After all the evidence had been gathered, the painting was taken back to the de Chirico Foundation who concluded that ‘it is simply not good enough to be an original de Chirico’.
Philip Mould concluded that the picture was possibly painted by someone close to the master. Philip said ‘The composition, the way the fruit is organised, and the date of the picture. It all indicates someone who knew de Chirico, who worked closely with him, even if it wasn’t the master himself.’
Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any more valuable, and Bob’s £1 picture remains just that.