The show, returning for its 11th series, revealed last night that in the first programme in the new series that a possible Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-93) sculpture that had been found by its current owner at a car boot sale is indeed genuine.
Presenters art dealer Philip Mould and broadcaster Fiona Bruce investigated whether the sculpture could be real, even without provenance.
Mould told ATG: “This hunk of metal was bought at a car boot sale in Colchester for £90. The owner ran it under a tap and the name Elisabeth Frink came up.”
Without any provenance the owner, Amanda, could go no further with the Frink Authentication Committee so she contacted the team at Fake or Fortune?
The sculpture is similar to a work by Frink called Small Warrior which was from a series of 10.
Mould said: “We had to find the other versions in this series to compare. It was like narrowing down suspects in a murder hunt or a detective trail. Which could we rule out and in?”
The fact this artwork was a bronze sculpture rather than a painting was unusual for the team.
“We analysed the metal and compared the make-up of the elements of the bronze with another Small Warrior that we knew was unequivocally by Frink,” Mould added.
“What I hadn’t realised was how much a piece of bronze can have a personality. Like making a cake, it has specific individual ingredients.
“We were able to establish it came from same ingot that made the others we had found. In a sense we able to fingerprint the piece of bronze.”
However, Mould and the team also knew there was a danger someone in the studio could have made it.
With the help of Pangolin Editions sculpture foundry in the Cotswolds the team were able to establish it wasn’t cast from another sculpture, using technology to exactly measure the artwork and compare it to the others from the same series.
Mould added: “At 12 inches high it is difficult to measure. But it can be done with breathtaking exactitude digitally. We were able to prove it wasn’t recast and had come from the original.
“We had science as the expert witness in the case. It left the committee in no doubt it was one and the same.”
“This was very satisfying. Not just proving it but turning it into solid, empirical fact.”
The research also uncovered tiny remnants of ‘grog’ (used with clay in sculpting that was the same as Frink used) in the bottom of its base which was from when it was cast.
During the research, the team found five other sculptures from the same Small Warrior series from the 1950s. They were able to look through the Waddington Gallery’s accounts to see who had bought some of the artworks and were able to track down half the series.
Now the artwork has been verified by the committee Amanda is weighing up her options and the sculpture is in an art gallery for safekeeping.
Life and work of Elisabeth Frink
Fiona Bruce said: “I loved learning more about the life and work of Elisabeth Frink. What a woman. She took the art world by storm at one of the most exciting times in the British art scene. It was great to put her in the spotlight again.”
Following this current episode, the latest series will be also investigate potential works by Joshua Reynolds, Armenian-American painter Abstract Expressionist Arshile Gorky and a double bill programme on Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro.
The research takes the team to both the north and south of France as well as Connecticut, New York and Washington in the US. Mould quipped: “Fiona gets the south of France and I got to go to a cabbage field… in northern France.”
Fake or Fortune? continues next week on BBC One at 8pm. The popularity of Fake or Fortune? has meant the BBC is showing the 30-odd back catalogues of programmes on BBC iPlayer.