Fake Or Fortune

Finding treasure in the attic has got to be the dream of a lifetime for any antique-lover. We love reading about incredible discoveries and hidden treasure, especially if it turns out to be a long-lost masterpiece.

So imagine the delight of a woman living in France who found out the artwork she had above her stove for the past several years turned out to be a rare painting by the 13-century Florentine artist Cimabue, born Cenni di Pepo (1240 - 1302), grandfather of the Renaissance period.

The 90-year-old woman from Compiègne, several miles north of Paris, made the discovery when she decided to move from the house where she had been living for most of her life. She called in some house-clearing experts, who made the discovery and brought the painting to the attention of Art Expert Eric Turquin, who works with Actéon auction house in Senlis.

Cimabue enjoyed an active painting career from 1272 until his death in 1302, He inspired a whole new generation of great master painters like Giotto and Leonardo da Vinci. Cimabue was influenced by an Italo-Byzantine style, using wooden poplar panels and gold paint to depict holy, biblical scenes like this most recent discovery.

The Art Expert Turquin believes this piece of the Mocking of Christ to be part of a polyptych or three-piece altarpiece, including the Flagellation of Christ and the Madonna and Child Enthroned between Two Angels. These latter two can be found in the National Gallery of London. It is thought that the newly discovered piece, Christ Mocked, is part of a much larger body of work painted in 1280 that consists of eight scenes in total, chronicling Christ’s passion and crucifixion.

While the painting bears no signature of the claimed artist, making some art experts sceptical of its provenance and authenticity, Turquin stands firm in his belief that the masterpiece is a Cimabue. His lays his proof in the tiny worm holes left behind in the wooden panel that match the other polyptych pieces in the Frick Collection:

"You can follow the tunnels made by the worms," Turquin told The Art Newspaper. "It’s the same poplar panel. We have objective proof it’s by the artist."

The piece has yet to be examined by other museum and old master experts; however, it has been valued at $330,688 to $440,918.

Old Masters Under The Mattress

It seems the art specialist Turquin has a nose for finding treasure in the attic. About five years ago he was called in to examine a suspected Caravaggio masterpiece. The owners only discovered the painting after venturing up into the attic of their home near Toulouse to do some roof repairs. Lodged underneath a mattress was a beautiful painting of Judith and Holofernes in the tenebrism style of Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

The painting is in remarkably good condition for a work created in the 1600s. True to Caravaggio dramatic and often graphic style, the painting portrays the biblical story of Judith beheading General Holofernes to stop him from destroying her village. The work of art didn’t come into the light for two years after being found to give Turquin the chance to clean it and put it under the scrutiny of X-rays and infrared reflectography.

Some experts believe the painting to be a forgery while others believe it is a copy by 16th century Flemish painter Louis Finson, who was known to copy Caravaggio’s great works. Despite the skepticism, Turquin plowed ahead with the sale of the Caravaggio in the attic, estimating it at €100m to €150m (about $170m). Before it hit the blocks though, the painting was snatched up, allegedly by American billionaire collector J. Tomilson Hill, for an undisclosed price, likely close to the reserve sum of €30m ($43m). A bargain at the price!

Is That A Ben Enwonwu On Your Wall?

Just like the Cimabue that was displayed in plain sight in a modest kitchen for decades, unbeknownst by its owner, a painting in a Texas home is soon to be recognized as one of the great works by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu.

On a whim, the residents of the house decided to Google the artist’s name to see who exactly had painted the portrait of their mother that has hung in the same place for decades.

They learned that the warm, earthy portrait of their mother Christine Elizabeth Davis, an American hairstylist of West Indian descent, was commissioned by her husband in 1971. He had met Enwonwu in 1969 during their time living in Lagos, Nigeria, and approached him to paint his lovely wife in oils. Later when they moved back to the U.S., the portrait of 30-year-old Christine was proudly displayed in their house in Texas, where it has been admired by the whole family ever since...until now.

The painting is expected to be a popular item at Sotheby’s London auction of modern and contemporary African art, estimated at £150,000 ($200,000).

You Break It, We Fix It

Repairing damaged precious objects is a risky business and one better left to the experts. Glued-together objects are rarely worth anything at auction, or so we’ve been led to believe. In the case of the recent Giacometti sculpture that was damaged by a not-so-sure-footed feline, the experts from the popular TV show, Fake or Fortune, got it wrong, declaring the piece worthless.

The Giacometti work in question is a plaster sculpture of a white square called, Tête qui regarde (The Gazing Head). It came into the Clark-Hall family in the 1930s, acquired directly from the artist himself, who was a friend. It enjoyed pride of place on top of the mantelpiece where it met its demise in the 1960s when it fell and cracked after a clumsy cat knocked it off its perch. After a hasty repair with glue and spackling paste, it resumed its place on the mantel until granddaughter Claire Clark-Hall brought it to the popular BBC TV antique show for appraisal.

The experts said the damage was too significant and unfortunately, was worth nothing. But the Clark-Halls were not convinced and took it to some professional restorers who removed the glue and spackle to find, "Alberto Giacometti 1928," inscribed on the bottom of the sculpture. The piece later fetched £500,000 ($612,000) at Christie’s "Art of the Surreal" sale in London.

Treasures In The Trash

But collecting is not always about fine art and masterpieces. As the saying goes, One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This is the mantra of retired NYC sanitation worker, Nelson Molina, who has been collecting treasure from the trash every day of his 34-year career with the city.

Over the years, Molina has curated an astonishing 45,000 items, all catalogued and organized on the second floor of the M11 garage in Harlem that he calls the Trash Museum. Molina can’t believe the stuff people throw out on a daily basis. He says he was raised to never throw anything out. With a little spit and polish, you can clean something up, repair it if necessary, and give it a second home.

Amongst his collection, Molina has found some amazing pieces like a signed letter from the president, a signed copy of a Lena Horne book by the artist herself, and a vintage teddy bear worth $450.

Now that he’s retired, Molina often visits the museum to check up on his beloved collection. His hope it to one day open up the space to the public and share his many treasures with the world. He is trying to raise money for such a project with the help of this film:

Are you a fine art aficionado? Explore our marketplace to discover fine art masterpieces. We regularly list new items waiting to be found!

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