Philip Mould has been at the center of some important art discoveries lately ranging from the Winslow Homer found in an Irish dumpster to the old master paintings revealed to have been looted by the Nazis. At times it seems as if Mould is at the center of the art world and not because he’s on Britain’s Antiques Roadshow. Now there’s a book written by Mould that has just come out called “Sleuth” where he explains his knack for uncovering the truth about paintings. The Telegraph tells the story of a Gainsborough landscape that was on offer at a Los Angeles auction house that Mould used memory, gossip and leg work to figure out the work’s true identity:
The painting of Cornard Wood, near the artist’s boyhood home in Suffolk, was put on sale as a work by an imitator of Ruisdael, a Dutch landscape artist.
It was listed in a catalogue sent to Mr Mould nearly three years ago and bore a striking similarity to a similar picture in the National Gallery, regarded as one of Gainsborough’s masterpieces, and thus aroused his interest. […] Bendor Grosvenor, his researcher, scoured through records and found that such a picture was sold in the 1940s by the Bond Street dealer, Agnews.
In the decades that followed the picture changed hands on number of occasions, with successive owners unaware of its real identity. There was an Agnews label on the back of the picture in the Los Angeles sale, which appeared to confirm that this was a the same picture. There had been a suspicion as early as the 1940s that an early version of Cornard Wood existed but it had disappeared without trace.