The news that Phillip Mould’s Gainsborough–which he found mis-attributed at a major auction house–is on offer to the Gainsborough Museum for nearly $1m puts new emphasis on the subject of Old Master paintings and attribution. Now comes news from the BBC that Gorriges, a regional auction house, sold a John Constable skyscape as the work of his followers. Now Sotheby’s is selling the work and Emmeline Hallmark, the company’s specialist isn’t surprised at the confusion:
The Gorringes catalogue for its auction on 10 June 2008 calls it “Passing Form – Clouds” and estimated the oil painting’s price at between £500 and £800. It was described as “rather dirty, painted on to some sort of thick mill-type board … some general scuffing and scratching in some parts into the paint”.
Ms Hallmark said: “Constable was widely faked and copied.
“We get a number of inquiries each week about pictures which people think are by John Constable and are not.
“The process to identify a work as by the artist himself is a very long one and involves a number of experts and in-depth analysis of the technique and the medium.” She said that the person who bought it from Gorringes had a “gut instinct” about its authenticity. “The owner loves the picture and that is the most important thing,” she said.
“They have decided to sell it but only at a certain price below which they are happy to keep it and have it back at home.” The estimated sale price is between £300,000 and £500,000 but it could sell for more. “It is hard to predict how many other people will believe it is worth rather more than that so it is an exciting prospect,” said Ms Hallmark.