The importance of consulting industry recognised art specialists
There’s been an increase in press activity recently concerning fake paintings and instances of less than ethical behaviour within the art world. With this in mind, our Old Master Specialist, David Dallas put pen to paper in order to highlight the importance of taking correct specialist advice when valuing paintings, be it with a sale or purchase in mind, or for insurance purposes.
The reports about about fake paintings loaned to a country house in Scotland and the London art dealer who paid £1m for a painting and proceeded to sell it on for £8m, highlight the importance of consulting recognised industry specialists when buying or considering selling. Unfortunately, these examples are only the ones in the press and not the works we see where clients have overpaid or the works are not right and we are the bearer of bad news.
This then reminds me of a very sad story that happened nearly 50 years ago, when I worked on the front counter at Christie’s, King Street.
A middle-aged man came to the desk with a large canvas of Diana and her hand maidens, wrapped up in brown paper and string. He said it was his family’s ‘Rubens’ and he wanted it valued. By pure chance, Christie’s Old Master Department had just taken on Gregory Martin, who for the previous 10 years had been curator of Flemish paintings at The National Gallery and was a Rubens expert. He examined the picture and pronounced it an old copy worth £1,000-£1,500. I went back downstairs with the painting, wondering how best to break the news. He took it very badly, the blood draining from his face and slumping backwards into a chair. I bought him a cup of hot sweet tea like you do for trauma victims and he told me the story of how the painting came to be his.
His father had died a year ago and as the elder son, he was allowed first choice from the collection. The ‘Rubens’ was undoubtedly the most significant thing in the castle, and he had always loved it, so that was what he chose. His younger brother got everything else, which amounted to a little over three hundred paintings. I just prayed his brother was the accommodating type.
If only he’d taken a second opinion from a recognised specialist in the field of Old Master paintings prior to making his final choice. Please don’t make the same mistake.