The BBC show returned for its 10th series on August 23 and the second episode of the series is due to be aired next week.
This second episode centres on the authenticity of a sketch depicting a mother and child believed to be by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920).
The sketch was inherited by Henrietta Sitwell from her father, who had inherited it from his father – Sacheverell Sitwell. Sacheverell was, along with his two siblings Osbert and Edith, a central member of the ‘Bright Young Things’ of the 1920s and a key figure in the British art world. A direct connection to such an established and respected name might sometimes help in establishing the authenticity of a work but, with an artist as regularly forged as Modigliani, it’s not so simple.
The Sitwell family believe it to be right but recently an auction house had cast doubt on its attribution. The BBC show said if the sketch was right it could be worth up to £100,000 and if not, just a few hundred pounds.
While Bruce investigates catalogues of Modigliani’s work and finds evidence of widespread fakes and forgeries, Mould has the sketch examined forensically – testing the chemical age of the paper to see whether it dates from before Modigliani’s death in 1920, at the age of just 35.
Armed with further evidence, he brings the sketch to the Pompidou Centre in Paris to compare it with a known Modigliani sketchbook and meets handwriting expert Adam Brand to see whether the dedication and signature match with any of the hundreds of confirmed Modigliani signatures.
The show then delves into the extensive Sitwell family archives to find evidence for the picture’s provenance. The family story is that Sacheverell bought this work sometime after the First World War. Can any written proof be found? The picture is dedicated to ‘Zborowski’, the name of Modigliani’s friend and art dealer – Leopold Zborowski.
There was a 1919 exhibition that Sacheverell, his brother and Zborowski held of Modern French artists at Heal’s where dozens of Modigliani sketches were on sale which could have been where the sketch was purchased.
Whether the research by the Fake or Fortune? team is enough to convince one of the world’s leading experts that the Sitwell sketch is a genuine work by Amedeo Modigliani will be revealed in the episode on August 30.