Fake or Fortune?


Series 3 - Episode 4 Gainsborough



“In my bones, I feel this is by Gainsborough,” insists Philip Mould, gazing at a wispy landscape painted on paper and then stuck to a canvas. And as a man with past form on finding ill-gotten Gainsboroughs, his bones are worth listening to. But the scientific evidence of electron microscopes and X-rays and spectrum analysers (or somesuch) may count for more in the end.

Our merry band of art detectives is trying to prove that two paintings of doubtful attribution are by Gainsborough: both are in public collections, so if they stand up to analysis, it will be a gain for the nation. In the end it comes down to the opinion of one scholarly eye, that of the imposing Hugh Belsey.


The focus turns to Britain's public art collections, in which 17,000 paintings are listed as `artist unknown'. From these Philip Mould and his research director Bendor Grosvenor identify several works they believe are by Thomas Gainsborough. They choose two paintings, the first being an 18th-century portrait of St Albans mayor Joseph Gape that Bendor thinks dates back to the artist's days as a high-society portrait painter - although he'll need to convince the world's leading Gainsborough expert. Philip's choice is a rare landscape, painted when the artist was experimenting with dreamlike scenes. But why is conservationist Aviva Burnstock troubled by a distinctive blue pigment? Last in the series.
Education Arts