Journalist Fiona Bruce teams up with art expert Philip Mould to investigate mysteries behind paintings, starting with what they believe is an unrecognised work by Monet.
Browse content similar to Monet. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
-18,400,000. 19 million.
-'The art world.
'Glamour. Wealth. Intrigue.'
95. Selling at 95 million.
'But beneath the surface, there's a darker place.
'A world of high stakes and gambles.
'International art dealer Philip Mould knows the risks.
'He hunts down sleepers, paintings that hide secrets.'
In the past, we looked at pictures. Now, almost, you can look through them.
Paint almost acts like blood at a crime scene.
'I'm Fiona Bruce and I've over 20 years' experience as a journalist.'
Ever picture tells its own story
and it's up to us to try and uncover it.
'We're teaming up to investigate human dramas and mysterious tales
'locked in paint.
'Our first case - we help one man in his struggle
'to try and prove his painting is by one of the world's most famous and sought-after artists.'
And there's no doubting who it's intended to be by.
'We follow the painstaking process to establish whether a work of art is genuine.'
It seems outrageous that the Wildenstein Institute can just defy international opinion like that.
It's absolutely infuriating and I think to challenge it with this painting is something we must do now.
'And we use cutting-edge forensics to try to solve the mystery.
'Our investigation takes us from the banks of the River Seine near Paris...'
-You think this could be the spot?
-I think it could be.
'..to Cairo to a grand palace on the Nile.'
And now the Monet, lot number 14.
We'll start the bidding here at £22 million.
'In the art world, Monet means money.
'Wealthy collectors will bid tens of millions of pounds
-'to own a work by this famous Impressionist who's captivated the world.'
'But sometimes even stupendous sums like this aren't enough.'
At £29 million.
-It's a pass at 29 million.
Wow. I have never seen anything like that. It was going up in millions by the second.
I know, but even at £29 million, the owner wasn't prepared to sell it.
This is how much these pictures are worth.
But for even a Monet to get to auction, it first has to be approved by a very powerful family.
'The Wildensteins are a family dynasty of billionaire art dealers.
'For nearly 40 years, they've published the Monet Catalogue Raisonne,
'a five-volume tome which is meant to list every genuine Monet.
'No Monet is ever sold in a major auction house without being listed.
'Art historian Daniel Wildenstein first published the catalogue in 1974.
'Since his death in 2001, his son Guy has inherited the power to decide what is or isn't a Monet.'
'We're on our way to see a painting both generations of Wildensteins have rejected.
'But Philip thinks they may have overlooked something.'
-Hi, David! Nice to meet you. Hiya.
-How do you do?
-How do you do?
-How do you do?
-Very nice to meet you.
-Welcome to the lighthouse.
'82-year-old David Joel has been fighting a long battle to get his painting accepted.
'We hope we might be able to help him.'
-Here it is.
-Well, it's a beautiful painting.
-And there's no doubting who it's intended to be by.
Bords de la Seine a Argenteuil.
So the banks of the Seine at Argenteuil, 1875. Lovely.
-The big question is, how did you come by it?
Well, I first saw it in a saleroom in Norwich.
I couldn't possibly afford it
because it was supposed to go for half a million pounds.
I really loved it but there was nothing I could do about it.
-But then it's here.
-Well, two years later, I heard there was a possibility
that I could buy it from the owner.
-And I bought it for £40,000.
I mean, 40 grand may sound a lot, but of course,
it's a fraction of its value if it turns out to be by Monet.
Yes, but if it's not by Monet, I mean, I could be worth 40 quid.
Yeah, but I take a more upside view on this.
-If this were included in the book...
-In the Wildensteins' book?
..it would be very different. People would look at it differently, value it remarkably differently.
-It could be worth, who knows, over a million.
-Well, I've been trying for 18 years to get Wildenstein
-to accept it for his catalogue.
It's a long haul, but I shall win in the end, I think.
Well, I admire your style. In the first place, putting down the money for this painting on a hunch
and then taking on the might of the Wildensteins.
So you've been writing letters
and they've been writing back to you, the Wildensteins, for 18 years?
Dear Mr Joel. I regret to tell you I still do not believe the picture to be by the artist.
Six years later. Dear Mr Joel. I have not changed my mind about your painting. That's just one sentence!
Dear Mr Joel. I am sorry to have to convey Mr Wildenstein's negative answer concerning your painting.
Crikey O'Reilly. I mean, some of these letters are brief to the point of...
Well, they're not very encouraging, are they?
I tell you, some of those letters are quite long for Wildenstein.
-He wrote one very famous letter and said, "Jamais!" That's all he said.
'By examining the painting with a halogen torch, I can study its brushstrokes,
'the unique handwriting of the artist.'
So, the Wildensteins presumably think that this is a fake,
that this is by another artist who's ripping off arguably the greatest Impressionist who ever lived.
But I have to say, I disagree. I think it's too clever, it's too complex.
I really hope that we can progress this. I feel David has had a lot of bad luck with this picture.
Do you ever feel worn down by it all, after all this time?
No. I gave up for a few months at a time and then came back to the attack.
I'm a fairly stubborn individual.
I have to say, I would never want to argue with you, cos I think I'd lose.
Oh, no, I never argue with a lady. SHE LAUGHS
I can really see why David bought this picture. And he believes in it.
And I have to say, the more time I've spent with it, I believe in it.
What would it mean to you if the Wildensteins do give it the thumbs up and do say, "It is a Monet"?
Well, it would be a remarkable victory.
I would've thought that all my work was justified.
I would have to sell it. After all, I'm getting on a bit...
A sprightly 82? I won't hear a word if it.
I'd rather sell it than have to leave it to my wife and children to do that.
It's better that I should sell it than that they should be forced to after my death.
'After 18 years of hard work and research,
'David has agreed to allow us to take his treasured painting away
'so that we can help him with his investigation.'
-Look after it.
Yes. Hopeful. SHE LAUGHS
Well, that was interesting. So you think that this could be a Monet?
-But the thing is, it's all very well you having a feeling in your water,
but if we are going to go to the Wildensteins and convince them,
we are going to need an awful lot more evidence, clearly.
'The first stage of our investigation is to have the painting examined
'at an art research lab.
'Dr Nicholas Eastaugh, an expert in the scientific study of paintings,
'is using high-resolution, infra-red and X-ray photography
'to unlock clues within the canvas.'
Nick is looking at the back of the picture. As absurd as it sounds,
you often find that the back of a painting will tell you more than the front.
Having had a brief look at the back, I've seen a myriad of inscriptions and labels.
Any of those could take us closer to Monet.
In the old days, finding out who a painting was by was a process of connoisseurship,
looking deep into the strokes of the painting, trying to work out whether an artist painted it.
Combined, of course, with provenance, looking into the history of the painting,
working back through the years, the centuries, the decades in order to get back to the artist.
Now, however, science is playing a much greater role.
In the last 18 years since David has had this picture, it has advanced massively.
They can establish all sorts of things which before couldn't be.
You can look into a picture and see the various layers, see how it evolved.
What you can say is that in the past, we looked at pictures.
Now, almost, you can look through them.
'Back at base, Philip's head of research, Dr Bendor Grosvenor,
'has been studying the images from the lab.
'He has years of experience proving whether paintings are genuine or fake.'
Here is some fascinating footage of the man at the centre of our mystery,
Claude Monet, done in the 1920s when he was about 80 years old.
-Amazing to see him, isn't it?
-Oh, it's wonderful.
I love to see him painting so quickly and his fag balancing in his mouth.
What's it going to take to prove to the Wildensteins that David's painting was painted by that man?
Well, what they're looking for is documentary evidence
that his painting existed in Monet's lifetime.
Monet died in 1926, so we need to find something from before that date.
-The reason is, if Monet is around to check the picture,
-it's not that easy to sell a fake.
And there are cases of art dealers sending photographs of suspect pictures to Monet
to ask him if they were real or not.
So if this painting existed while Monet was alive,
-it's much less likely to be a fake.
And I've been having a look at the back of the picture, which is covered with an array of labels.
It's possible that any one of these could help put this picture into the right place at the right time.
Absolutely. The first thing I want to point out is this stamp in the middle which says Latouche.
Now, Latouche is what we call an artists' colourman
or someone who supplied artists with canvasses and paints.
And we know that Latouche supplied artists within Monet's circle.
-So we need to prove that Latouche supplied canvasses to Monet.
And the next clue which I think helps put David's painting in the right location, at least,
is a baggage stamp from the French railways
which says here from Paris Banlieue Station to Argenteuil.
Which is highly significant because the title of the picture is Bords de la Seine a Argenteuil.
-And where is Argenteuil?
-Argenteuil is a suburb just outside Paris
where Monet lived between 1871 and 1878.
So it would be good to go to Argenteuil and find, if we can,
the same view, if it exists, that is in that painting.
-If we could.
And finally, the most important set of clues are going to be these dealer stamps in the back here.
-What do they show?
-Well, they have stock numbers on
and we can trace those stock numbers back using the ledgers and the records of those art dealers
to try and find out the previous owners before that crucial date in 1926 to satisfy the Wildensteins.
So we need to follow this trail of clues, then,
to prove to the Wildensteins that this painting was painted by Monet
at exactly the right time in his life.
'Our first stop, Paris, where the Impressionist movement began.
'We're heading to the Musee Marmottan,
'which holds the largest collection of Monets in the world.
'Monet was one of a group of revolutionary artists
'who breathed new life and light into art.
'He brought painting out of the confines of the studio
'and into the open air.
'Monet spent 70 years and over 2,000 canvasses
'trying to capture the shifting moods of the landscape
'and there was one painting which began it all.'
Now this is the picture I wanted to show you.
I used to have a postcard of this on my wall when I was a student.
I imagine it probably looked rather good.
Even in reproduction, this picture works. It's called Impression Sunrise
and this is where Impressionism gets it name.
It was exhibited in 1874
and compared to what was going on in art at the time,
-this was a real departure, this was very, very radical.
What was so shocking about it, to one critic in particular,
was that it was so unfinished.
A chap called Louis Leroy said, "Even embryonic wallpaper looks more finished than this."
So the critics didn't like it because they thought it looked a bit kind of slap-dash?
Yes, and for all the reasons the critics didn't like it,
you can see how Impressionism works.
I mean, the sense of movement in the picture,
the feeling of just the blink of an eye, capturing a sense of atmosphere.
He's out there, he's actually in the docks, this is Le Havre docks.
He's doing something which is spontaneous, is fresh, is energetic.
And you just respond to it kind of sensually rather than anything else.
-And I think anyone can grasp that, can't they?
-Yeah, I think that's a very important point.
-This art is not art that you have to be trained to like.
Can you imagine if David's Monet ends up hanging amongst all these?
That would be really something.
And do you know something? I think it could.
I have to say, having seen these here, I believe in that picture more and more and more.
'As well as this amazing collection of Monet works,
'the Musee Marmottan also holds the artist's letters and account books.
'We hope we might find a link to one of the clues on the back of the canvas, the Latouche stamp.
'Latouche was a Paris-based artists' colourman
'who supplied paints, materials and canvasses to the Impressionists.
'But did he supply Monet?'
Monsieur Taddei, thank you for agreeing to see us about what we think
could be a Monet, a new Monet.
-I hope, for you.
-Well, we certainly hope.
As a director of this museum, if anyone's going to know, you're going to know.
Did Latouche have any dealings directly with Monet?
Yes, sure. If you wait five minutes,
I will show you something to tell that Monet and Latouche were friends.
-That sounds rather hopeful.
-It does! It sounds like he thinks he's got something.
He's on the scent of something. But, of course, here there is so much archival material,
-anything could pop out of the woodwork.
-Mm. Come on, Monsieur Taddei. Oh.
-Did you have any luck? Yes.
-I have the account book
for the year 1872
and you can see, "Monsieur Latouche".
-Let's have a look. Thank you! Here we are, look.
-In beautiful script, as well.
-So this is Monet's account book.
-Yes. He wrote that.
Here we go. Tableau vendu 1872, so that's picture sold 1872.
To Monsieur Latouche.
That is so fascinating because suddenly now that name on the back of the picture means something.
This unequivocally states, in Monet's own hand,
-that he dealt with Latouche.
-There's a direct link between the two.
I'm waiting at the Gare du Nord in Paris
because David and Jennifer Joel are about to turn up any minute
and then we're going to go hot on the trail of
all those clues on the back of the canvas and see where they take us. Oh, here they are.
Hi there! Nice to meet you, Jennifer! Hiya!
Hi, David, how you doing?
-Welcome to Paris!
-We've got quite a lot of work to do.
-We have, haven't we?
'We're on the trail of another clue on the back of the canvas.
'A railway baggage stamp which reads Paris to Argenteuil.
'In the 19th century, Argenteuil was a rapidly expanding suburb of Paris,
'a playground for city-dwellers who would travel by railway
'to spend a day by the river.
'It was also a favourite haunt of Monet.
'He moved to Argenteuil in 1871 with his wife Camille
'and their young son, Jean.
'Monet was fascinated by this landscape teeming with modern life,
'a place of leisure and pleasure.
'But also a place launching headlong into the industrial age
'with its factories, bridges and steam trains.
'Argenteuil has changed dramatically
'but just a short walk from the railway station, Monet's house still stands.'
So there's the station
and here is Monet's house where he was living at the time.
If he did indeed paint your picture, this is where he would've been living.
-It's a lovely house!
-I've never seen it before.
-It's quite a substantial building, isn't it?
-There it is.
And you can just imagine... I've got a picture here of the baggage stamp on the back of your picture.
Paris Banlieue a Argenteuil.
And we know that lots of colourmen, artists' suppliers, were in Paris
and they shipped bundles of art supplies and canvasses down using the trains,
so you can just imagine, the canvasses come down on the train, arrive at the station,
-Monet picks them up.
-What a very convenient way of getting your extra supplies.
-And so quick.
What do you think, Jennifer, about the fact that David has been doggedly researching this Monet
for 18 years? What do you make of it all?
-What, the truth?
-I can't tell you how much time it's taken up.
But I admire what he's done, I really do, cos he really believes in the painting.
And it is beautiful. Really beautiful.
Yeah, it's OK.
'Back in Paris, I'm heading to a research lab
'which is undertaking pioneering work in the field of art authentication.'
The team working in the lab behind me are at the absolute forefront
of a whole new way of looking at art.
There's a lot of speculation in the art world generally
about how science is able to take the process of attribution forward.
And these guys have got techniques and machinery and technology
which is really pushing the boundaries. The question is,
will they be able to help David authenticate his picture?
'David's painting is being scanned under a revolutionary new camera
'which provides images of unprecedented resolution and colour accuracy.
'An ordinary digital camera provides a resolution of 12 million pixels.
'The Lumiere camera provides 240 million pixels.
'It also uses 13 different light filters from ultraviolet to infra-red.
'This enables us not just to view the surface of the painting in greater detail,
'but to see through the layers of paint to reveal the artist's technique.
'The multi-spectral scan takes a couple of hours to complete, so I'm meeting with inventor Pascal Cotte.'
Pascal, hello! 'He's used his camera to remarkable effect
'on the world's most famous painting, the Mona Lisa.'
So you've been doing some very interesting research on the Mona Lisa.
What has your camera been able to tell us?
The camera can peel back the layers of paint like an onion
and see how the artist painted it.
Looking at her, she's covered with a varnish which seems to obscure the paint beneath.
Yes, and the varnish is totally yellow.
And the sky appears to turn green.
And with the camera, we can remove the varnish.
-Actually, that's fascinating. So the sky is not green at all, it's blue.
And the next step, now we can recover the genuine colour.
How extraordinary. You're looking at the paints
as if they have not degraded, as if they haven't changed over the 400 or 500 years.
-So one is going back to the appearance of the picture when it left Leonardo's studio.
-She's got chestnut-brown hair.
And the veil which one could just make out before is so much more clear.
-You can see its transparency. She's a different looking woman.
And now we can look at what we have behind the painting.
-We use infra-red. So you are like Superman and you can see behind.
Let's try it. Wow.
Look at this.
We discover for the first time
that she has a kind of blanket on her knee.
She has, hasn't she? So what just looked like a dark and incoherent area
-is in fact her fingers holding a shawl.
This is all really fascinating stuff when dealing with the world's most famous portrait,
-but the question is, what can this process tell us about David's painting?
-We shall see.
'Back at Argenteuil, we're about to head out on the River Seine
'to try and find the view in David's painting.'
Here come the firemen with our lifejackets.
'It means hitching a lift with some friendly French firemen,
'as they have the only boat available to take us out.
'Olivier Millot, director of the local museum, agrees to be our guide.'
-You look like you're enjoying yourself.
-I am! I think this is great!
-A bientot! There we are.
Down the Seine. Here we go.
'Monet would've taken a rather more leisurely journey down the river
'in a boat he had specially converted to paint in.
'He called it his bateau-atelier, or studio boat.
'But the waterway has changed dramatically and industry now dominates the landscape.
'It's proving difficult to find the spot where Monet laid anchor to paint our view.'
To the right. SHE SPEAKS FRENCH
-A bit more.
-A bit more to the right.
I mean, that's as good as you can get.
-Yeah, it could be. But is this Argenteuil?
Non? C'est pas Argenteuil?
You see, it could be that there,
except that building, which apparently was built when this was painted, isn't there,
and also this isn't Argenteuil. Argenteuil is more that way.
-So why don't we go and have a look that way?
-Yes. I'm not fussy.
-Oh, God! I don't believe that for a moment!
'Olivier suggests we head towards a place once known as Ile Marante,
'an island near Argenteuil painted many times by Monet.
'The island no longer exists as it's now joined to the riverbank.
'But despite these changes in the landscape, it's still possible to find the view.'
So if we look now,
I don't know, Olivier, what you think, but David, look.
-Because this used to be an island before, here.
-Imagine that is there, there's the river. You see the hills?
There. Of course, none of those buildings were there.
And the trees here. What do you think?
-Let's go for it.
-You think this could be the spot?
-I think it could be.
It fulfils the business of Bords de la Seine a Argenteuil,
-because this is Argenteuil.
-On the banks of the Seine in Argenteuil.
But in a flat calm. Today there is a little wind, as you can see.
-Yes, cos there's a perfect reflection here.
And do you like to think about Monet painting here?
-Painting this painting that you love so much?
-Oh, I love the idea, yes.
'Back in Paris, the scan is almost complete.
'To help me interpret the images, I've invited Iris Schaefer from the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne.
'She's a leading authority in the use of scientific techniques to study Monet's works
'and she recently exposed a fake that had been accepted as genuine by Daniel Wildenstein.'
-Here's the painting.
-Ah, so Daniel Wildenstein didn't always get it right.
-It's in the actual Catalogue Raisonne itself.
So how could you tell this was a fake?
First of all, the paint application is done with a palette knife, which you can see here.
A palette knife was never used by Monet in the 1880s.
-So you detected that the technique was wrong.
-Yes, the technique was wrong for this time and for Monet.
The second thing was the signature. It was done twice.
The first three letters were written with a greyish paint
and afterwards, the whole signature was enlarged in a bigger size done with a brownish paint.
-That's completely unusual for Monet.
-You can see it's a bit cack-handed, can't you?
-It's clear now you've pointed it out, particularly with this high-definition photography.
This is a lovely example of how science can move an attribution backwards,
take an attribution away, or move it forwards.
'It's with some trepidation that I show Iris
'the Lumiere camera's high-resolution images of David's painting.
'Will she see signs of another fake Monet?'
Please can you switch the light?
That is so striking, isn't it?
With the light coming from the side, it's throwing the brush marks into strong relief.
It's making the painting look three-dimensional.
-I wish I had one of these at home.
-Yes, it reminds me of looking at my paintings under the microscope.
'Iris spends what seems like an eternity scrutinising the scan.
'Having undertaken the scientific study of scores of Impressionist works,
'she understands exactly how Monet painted.'
You've got up close to many Monets.
Would you say that the techniques we're seeing here are typical of him?
Yes, indeed. You can see every step of the construction of the painting,
which seems to be in this case typical for Monet.
For example, the thinly-applied paint in the river or in the sky
and the thicker paint in the foliage.
But it certainly is done quickly
because you can see there are places where you can look through the ground layer.
-Almost bits of bare canvas.
There's such a feeling of spontaneity but also certainty about it.
Yes, indeed. The painter knew what he was doing, I'm sure. But can we look at the signature?
Yes, we can see that the signature is not painted in black or in brown
but in a colour, a greenish-bluish colour.
This is typical for Monet because he loved to put a signature in harmony with the colours of his paintings.
-Like a chic pocket handkerchief? Just a bit of colour.
'Having dissected the front of the painting, Iris looks at the back.
'She notices that the Latouche colourman stamp
'also appears on works that she has previously researched.'
The left one is the Latouche stamp on the reverse of a painting made by Gauguin in our collection in Cologne
and it is identical to the stamp which we can see here on the Bords de la Seine.
It is dated 1875.
-About the same date as our picture.
But as you can see here on the right, we have another Latouche stamp
which is a slightly different design, and this belongs to a painting of Gauguin,
but it's dated later in 1884.
Now, that's very significant, because it suggests, therefore...
It says that David's picture must have been produced
-before that date, before the design changed.
It's the sort of touch, surely, that a faker would never think of.
Yes, I think so. It's almost impossible.
'The evidence appears to be stacking up.
'Time to ask the burning question.'
Do you think David's picture is by Monet, having seen all this?
From all that I know about this painting and what I have seen,
erm, I think nothing suggests that this is a fake.
-Are you sure?
-Yes, I strongly feel that.
'Just as we're about to call an end to a fascinating day,
'I get a phone call from Philip
'who's at the Gare du Nord trying to take David's painting back to London.'
-Philip, what is it?
-"Hi. Well, spot of bother at the customs here.
"They seized the picture. They won't let me take it back to London.
"They expressed to me this could be a national treasure and they don't want to let it out.
"They want to establish that it hasn't been smuggled out of England
-"or indeed it's not stolen."
-You are kidding me!
So what do we do next?
"David will be required to come up with paperwork
-"to prove that it's his picture."
-Have you got any paperwork, David, that proves it's yours?
-Have you got the receipt from when you bought this painting?
-Is that real or are they having me on?
-No, no, this is real. That is Philip stuck at customs.
-Oh, poor man.
'After four hours of questioning, Philip is allowed to go back to London.
'But he's had to leave the painting at the station, so it's down to us to get it back.'
Your picture's being held here at the Gare du Nord in an office just up there.
It's being held against its will. I've got all the documentation here
which proves that you are the owner of this painting.
-So shall we go and try and get it back?
-Come on, then.
'We need to find the customs official dealing with our case
'but he's proving difficult to track down.'
-Where's the painting?
-I have no idea. It's wherever he put it.
So he needs to be got on the phone and we need to sort it out because we are not leaving without it.
No-one has heard of this customs officer whose name I've been given.
The Joels are confused and don't know what's going on. I don't either, really.
But hopefully we're going to get the painting.
'What began as a farce is becoming more serious and I am rapidly losing my sense of humour.'
I am so angry!
The painting is stuck in there. We have been sending documents all day to prove that it's David's painting.
There is no question of that. Now the bloke has just upped and gone home.
No-one there will entertain the idea of making any kind of decision. They're frankly rude!
I said to them, "It's not a bottle of bloody perfume,
"this is an incredibly valuable painting."
Even if it isn't by Monet, it's really valuable. If it is by Monet, it goes through the roof.
And they have no idea what they've got there. No idea whatsoever.
And I feel incredibly embarrassed, actually, about this situation and sorry for David and Jennifer
because it's all very well me being cross but this is their painting.
'With our train about to depart, we have to make a tough decision.'
I think we've hit a wall. We've gone as far as we can with customs.
They are not going to budge. And we've made all the calls we can make.
But I think, actually, I'm really sorry, we're going to have to leave your painting here
and we're going to have to try and get the painting another way.
We made an appointment and that rotter of a customs official did not turn up.
-We thought we were going to see him and he buggered off home.
-Let's go home.
Let's bugger off home ourselves. And get a glass of wine. I think we deserve it, don't you?
'In the end, it takes seven days and countless phone calls,
'but finally David's painting is liberated.
'A diplomatic incident is narrowly avoided
'and our researcher returns the painting safely back to British soil
'so we can continue our investigation.'
'With the painting safely returned and a leading scientist on our side,
'I'm eager to show it to one of the most respected connoisseurs of Monet.
'Connoisseurs tend not to rely on science,
'but on something else, their trained eye, to identify works of art.'
It can take many, many years to become a really good connoisseur
and there's one man at the Courtauld Institute, that centre of excellence for the study of art,
who's spent three decades studying Monet and teaching about him and researching him.
I'm very keen to discuss it with him.
'Having written several seminal books on Monet and curated exhibitions of the artist's work,
'Professor John House knows the genuine article and how to spot it.'
John, you are a world scholar on Monet. What do you make of David's painting?
Well, I've seen it many, many times over the years
and I've never had a moment's doubt that it was painted by Monet. It simply looks right.
-What makes you say that?
-Well, it's really in the way the brushwork looks.
It's the way his handling of paint is so very, very recognisable.
It's extraordinarily varied and yet it's thoroughly free and spontaneous in one sense,
but also so much in control.
Brushstrokes are like handwriting in that way.
Each artist's paint and the way they apply it is unique.
-But it's not just the brushstrokes which are so convincing about this picture.
We've also got Monet's actual handwriting in the form of the signature at the bottom right.
I've cobbled together some comparable signatures from other completely legitimate Monet paintings
and it seems to me that the one on David's painting is completely right.
-What do you think?
-Well, I think they all look very, very similar.
I think there's something about the flow and rhythm of the handwriting, particularly the left hook of the M.
It seems to me there's a fluency there rather like the mark-making in the rest of the picture.
And you are, you know, one of the world's leading authorities on Monet.
And you believe this is the real deal.
Absolutely. But more important, the other scholars who are also experts in Monet's work,
particularly Monet's work of this period, have never had a moment's doubt about the picture.
They're all convinced that it's a perfectly genuine painting.
How can the Wildensteins not listen to that?
Well, it's a difficult situation. The initial judgement was made by Daniel Wildenstein
probably around 30 or 40 years ago
and his son, Guy, after Daniel's death, has also been sent information
-but they've simply been unwilling to change their mind.
-It seems outrageous
-that they can just defy international opinion like that.
-It's absolutely infuriating.
But the art market has given the Wildensteins the authority to say what is and what is not a Monet
and it's very, very hard to overturn that particular authority,
-although we're convinced it's genuine.
-Isn't it time to challenge that authority?
Absolutely. And I think to challenge it with this painting
and demonstrate our reasons for being totally convinced that it's genuine is something we must do now.
'With the world's Monet connoisseurs behind David's painting,
'we now have to look at its provenance,
'documentary evidence showing who owned the work and when.
'David has spent years tracking the history of his painting.
'Bendor has gathered all the relevant documents to see how far the paper trail leads us.'
-What have you got?
Do you remember when we looked at the back of the picture, there was a large stock number?
It comes from a London-based art dealer who was called Arthur Tooth.
And fortunately, Arthur Tooth's stock books and ledgers all survive and we got a copy of one here.
And the numbers from the back of David's painting,
which is 3322, matches the stock number in Arthur Tooth's ledger.
So here we are, here's our painting. Claude Monet.
-Oh, look at that!
-But the really crucial piece of information
is that the provenance of the painting before he bought it was Galerie Georges Petit
and Mohammed Bey Khalil.
-And George Petit was a dealer in Paris?
-He was a dealer in Paris. He was one of Monet's main dealers.
And here is a fabulous picture of Georges Petit's very grand auction room.
But I think Khalil is the most important person here.
He was a very wealthy Egyptian art collector obsessed with everything French.
French wife, French food, he liked French art, he liked French architecture.
-The whole shebang.
-The whole shebang. He comes from Cairo, he has a very nice palace on the Nile.
Now, we know that he went on a bit of an art-buying spree between 1919
and 1923 and quite a few of his pictures were bought through that gallery, Georges Petit.
'Did Khalil buy David's picture from Georges Petit? And if so, when?
'If we could prove the painting was in such a reputable gallery before Monet's death in 1926,
'then it's very unlikely to be a fake.
'This is what the Wildensteins have been asking for.
'To finally solve the mystery of David's painting, we're travelling to Egypt.
'Cairo was home to the man we know once owned David's painting.
'The wealthy Egyptian collector Mohammed Mahmoud Bey Khalil.
'For half the year, Khalil would escape the searing heat of the city for Paris.
'But for the other half, he lived here, on the banks of the Nile.
'His home was a glorious palace built in the French style.
'It's now a state museum dedicated to his memory.
'And inside is his extraordinary legacy.'
-Look at this!
-Look at that!
You wouldn't expect this in the middle of Cairo.
'Records are scarce but it's thought that Khalil moved here between 1915 and 1919.
'To furnish his home, he went on an art buying spree to end all others.
'He was passionate about French art
'and spent vast sums to ensure he amassed works by all the greats.
'It's a glorious collection which includes many Impressionist works
'and, of course, paintings by the artist at the centre of our mystery, Claude Monet.
'It's spine-tingling to think that David's painting once hung here.
'We've asked museum director Recin Baher
'if she can find anything in their archives which might help our case with the Wildensteins.'
-Hi! How are you?
Well, I'm fine. By searching in our archives,
I found some photos of paintings that were sent by French dealers
to Mahmoud Khalil to choose among them.
Oh, I see. So he would be sent these pictures so he could decide if he wanted to buy them.
-Yes. And these.
-And, of course, we still use that technique today, sending pictures.
-Except normally now they're by computer.
-And among them, we found David's painting.
Good lord. I mean, it's clearly an early photograph.
Yes. Probably one of the first photographs ever taken of it.
-No damage. Can I look on the back?
-Yes, of course.
There we are, look. Claude Monet. Le Bords de la Seine a Argenteuil. So it's the same title.
-Look at this. What about the stock number?
That is the stock number on the back of my painting. It's fantastic.
-So here we have your picture.
-On a card sent by a dealer.
It's got your number. So whoever this card is from
is who sold the painting to Khalil.
And from what we know from the ledgers,
-Georges Petit is the only likely candidate.
So we need to link that stock number to Georges Petit because if it was in Georges Petit's gallery,
that would've been during Monet's lifetime and therefore genuine.
-We're this close!
I want to get...together. SHE LAUGHS
Generally speaking, every dealer has their own style of stock label on the back of their pictures.
We know that David's picture is most likely to have come from Georges Petit.
So I'm going to go round all the pictures in this collection
that we know have gone through the George Petit gallery
and with any luck find similar labels to this one, the one on the back of David's picture.
Same design, colour of ink, serrated edge
and roughly the same size, if possible, which is about 1.5 x 3cm.
That way, I'll be able to prove, with any luck, conclusively that it's a Georges Petit picture.
I've found one. Definitely the same design.
Same coloured ink. Serrated edge. We're in business.
Yes, there it is. 4760.
-So that is another Georges Petit sticker.
-As we are now beginning to expect.
This is by Henri Lebasque. Again, it's a Georges Petit picture and it's called Hammock.
-And sure enough...
Yes! Unquestionably the same design.
Oh, wow! We've got the double whammy here. Not only have we got the stock number,
-but what's above it? Collection Georges Petit!
-Look at that!
That means that any painting with that dealer's stamp, like our dealer's stamp,
-was Georges Petit's collection.
This is by Jean-Francois Millet. It's called La Toilette de la Nymph.
Here we are. 7601.
Now, this is a particularly significant number.
-It would've been given this when it came into the Georges Petit gallery.
-Do we know when that was?
No, but we do know when he sold it.
Hang on, 7601. This is an earlier number 5575.
So this was catalogued by Georges Petit in his gallery before that one.
And we had to prove that the painting was in Georges Petit's possession before Monet died.
Monet died in 1926.
So this means that this painting was in Georges Petit's possession while Monet was alive
and if it had been a fake, Monet would've pointed it out. So your painting is genuine. This is it!
Wonderful! It's proven at last.
-And how long have you been looking for this information?
And I've got a lot of Georges Petit numbers, but not the significant number which has just been revealed.
It's game, set and match.
And as I see it now, this should be enough for the Wildensteins.
For more than 18 years, David has been trying to find the proof that
that painting existed while Monet was alive and therefore it was genuine.
And he couldn't find it. And, actually, when we started on this,
I didn't think we'd find that. But now we have
and that is the one incontrovertible piece of proof that we needed
and that is what the Wildenstein Institute have been asking for all this time and we've just found it.
So if that's not enough for them, I don't know what is.
'At last, we're ready to head back to Paris to present David's painting to the Wildenstein Institute.
'Armed with a dossier of new evidence, I'm feeling pretty confident.
'But in case we need extra backup, I've invited world Monet expert John House to come along.'
So here we are. The Wildenstein Institute.
The art world fortress.
-Yes, it certainly doesn't look very inviting.
-Well, with any luck now, this is the coup de coeur.
This is the moment that we've been waiting for.
-We'll keep our fingers crossed.
-I have to say, I've got that slightly sick feeling of going into an exam.
Yes, but this is the moment.
'The protocol here is strict.
'No-one is allowed to attend meetings with Guy Wildenstein and his Catalogue Raisonne committee.
'We are simply instructed to deliver the painting and our dossier of evidence.'
I'm feeling rather frustrated. We've lived and breathed this picture of the last three months
and now it's out of our hands and I just want to be with it,
I want to be able to be the person telling them that this is a real Monet.
And now it's just up to the paperwork.
And they're sitting there, they're in the room, we can't do anything, we've just got to wait.
'We're told to expect a decision by letter within a week, so I head back to London.
'But John is asked to return to the Wildenstein Institute at the end of the day.'
The Monet catalogue committee's had its meeting
and Guy Wildenstein has asked to meet with me. I don't know exactly what he wants to say.
I hope he's going to ask me further questions. But anything further I can say, so much the better.
HE SPEAKS FRENCH
Ah, here we go.
'To John's surprise, Guy Wildenstein gave him his decision that very afternoon.
'He's headed back to London to give us the news.'
We're about to find out the result,
whether or not the Wildensteins have approved David's painting as a Monet.
I can only assume they are going to, because we've got so much evidence, I don't see how they can say no!
If they do, there is no justice. I'm hugely excited about it.
And actually, more than anything, I really want this for David and for his wife
because they have tried for so long to prove that this is a Monet.
I'm convinced now. I wasn't at the beginning but I am now.
And I really, really want it for them.
-John, at last!
-How nice to see you!
-Good to see you.
-So, come on, then!
The answer is no.
-Big, total no.
They didn't seem to have taken the dossier very seriously.
-I'm not joking, no, no. I'm absolutely serious.
I was summoned in and given this very peremptory sort of casual dismissal.
-I'm not kidding at all.
They simply said, "No, it's not a Monet. We don't think it looks right."
But all the stuff about the stamps on the back of the paintings...
All of this... If it doesn't look like a Monet, all this is irrelevant.
And he also said, which was so telling,
that it had been seen by his father, the late Daniel Wildenstein,
that he had not thought it was a Monet and he said he couldn't go against his father's opinion.
I'm finding this almost absurd.
They asked for two things - proof that it was in existence before Monet's death
and secondly that it was in the Khalil collection. We have found both of those bits of evidence.
Absolutely. It left one kind of speechless, startled, shocked, upset,
and infinitely convinced that, you know, this is just deeply, deeply wrong.
The fact that they've turned it down leaves us with a black hole, frankly,
in terms of the attribution and the official acceptance of works being by Monet,
that it's being done by people who, obviously, I cannot respect their judgement.
-This just shows how flawed many aspects of the art world are.
What we need with the case of Monet is not this dynastic,
art-dealing, extremely wealthy institution
that seems to be able to make decisions without actually having to justify them.
What we need instead is a committee like we have for Van Gogh or Rembrandt,
an academically-appointed group of individuals,
all of whom have done important things in the area of research and studies
who have earned those positions, whose opinions, when they come together, we can believe.
Surely not a system like this, the one we've just encountered. It is not right.
I have to say, I feel utterly deflated.
And the thing is, you know, the Wildensteins asked for some facts, we got those facts.
And what I'm used to, in journalism anyway,
is that if you compile your facts, you do your work, you investigate,
you put everything together, the facts speak for themselves. That's the business I'm in.
And...here, the facts seem to count for nothing.
The Wildensteins appear to have moved the goal posts. And now...
Now we have to tell David.
I have really come to love David during the making of this programme. That is not something I say easily.
But he's relentlessly enthusiastic, charming, passionate about his painting.
He is just a really brilliant, brilliant man.
And... I feel I've let him down
and I'm really dreading telling him.
-How lovely to see you!
-Where have you been?
-Well, we've been working, haven't we?
-It's lovely to see you!
-Lovely to see you.
-What have you got in there?
-Well, this, of course, is your painting.
Now, John House had a meeting with Guy Wildenstein.
It didn't go brilliantly well.
And, knowing you, you'll think that I'm joking, but I'm not joking.
Guy Wildenstein has said no.
He says, despite all the work that we've done and everything we found,
he says, in his opinion, it is not a Monet.
-The man's mad.
-I don't believe it!
I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry.
I have to say, I can barely believe it. I mean, rarely does one come across such a strong argument
-as we put together.
-Are you pulling my leg?
-No, we're not pulling your leg. I'm really not.
-I'm afraid we're not.
-I knew that's what you'd think.
-You're really not?
-I'm really not. I would never, ever...
Well, the man's crazy. It's irrefutable.
-Of course it is.
But do you know what the really alarming thing was?
It seemed to be that they didn't really want to take account of the argument.
It was almost as if, according to John, that they'd made up their mind already.
I mean, honestly, I feel desperately sorry
that we've all gone on this journey together
and that, you know, you always hope you're going to come with a "Ta-da!" ending
and actually we haven't.
We haven't, despite all our best efforts.
I'm completely gobsmacked.
-I absolutely am.
I mean, that painting needs, for itself, to be recognised.
It's a great painting. It's a lovely painting.
But I'm really sorry for everybody, really.
-So much has gone into...
-As Paul Tucker said,
Paul is the great American expert,
he said, "Well, anyway, David, you've got a beautiful picture by Monet". And I feel like that, too.
'We're not the only ones who feel an injustice has been done here.
'Those regarded as the world's leading Monet scholars agree
'that David's painting is genuine
'and should be accepted into the Wildenstein Catalogue Raisonne.
'Guy Wildenstein has put his rejection in writing, saying...'
-Well, that was tough, wasn't it?
-David and Jennifer were obviously expecting good news.
We didn't have any to give them.
No, but it is a tough and aggressive business.
There are other pictures out there, a lot of pictures,
that like David and Jennifer's, are in limbo.
I mean, they have fallen foul of an aspect of the art world
which, personally, I'm not very proud to be part of,
and that is the dependence upon individuals who aren't necessarily the people you ought to be going to.
-Well, let's hope that one day the picture gets the recognition it deserves.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Journalist Fiona Bruce teams up with art expert Philip Mould to investigate mysteries behind paintings. It is a world of subterfuge and intrigue as they grapple with complex battles often unseen beneath the apparently genteel art establishment. Their sleuthing takes them from New York to Cairo and Cape Town as they unpick clues behind stolen and contested works of art, and unmask the work of a master forger along the way.
In the opening episode, Fiona and Philip discover what they believe is an unrecognised and valuable painting by Monet. But can they convince the powers that be?