Saturday, 25 June 2011

Winslow Homer Fake?

Tomorrow's episode of Fake or Fortune features this painting by Winslow Homer: Three Children Under A Palm. It was found dumped by a rubbish tip with some other paintings. Fifteen years later its finder, Tony, took these paintings to BBC1's Antiques Roadshow, where Philip Mould recognized this one as an unknown Winslow Homer worth £30,000. As Homer is one of the greats of American art, it could be worth $250,000 in a US auction. But is it genuine and who really owns it? Another fascinating detective story with Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould in Fake or Fortune on BBC1 at 7pm (title link).

115 Comments:

At 27/6/11, Blogger Tootle said...

What an interesting study in human nature it turned out to be. The single mum with 4 teenagers is looking forward to giving her kids a good start in life with the proceeds from selling the painting. A descendant of the lady who commissioned the painting suddenly turns up to claim it - saying he feels sorry for the woman and offering her 25%! (After insultingly saying she probably planned to spend it on a swimming pool and new car.) What arrogance! We never know how the painting was thrown away, but my bet is someone cleaned out the attic and took the lot to the tip. Paintings included. Finders keepers should be the rule in this case! The only people who will profit from this are the lawyers - as usual. What irony. Great stuff for a novel.

 
At 27/6/11, Blogger Ricardo Carbajal Moss said...

I am an artist and I think that this painting should be sold and that the money should be split in half.

 
At 27/6/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This programme left me sick. Sotherby's and the descendant of the Blake family behaved appallingly. It was clear one of them wasn't telling the truth. The Blake's only got interested beacuse it was worth something. If it really is theirs why wasn't it on any lists for inheritance tax? It felt like once again the privaleged were screwing over the lower classes.

 
At 27/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Tootle

Spot on. This programme had more twists and turns than a spy thriller. Family throws out some old, unwanted paintings, then twigs they've thrown away the family jewels. And suddenly junior loves this old painting which shows his forebears as children!

If you missed episode one of this brilliant series, it's on iPlayer for 3 weeks. It was even better than Episode 2.

 
At 27/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Ricardo

A 50/50 split would be the fairest solution, but greed rules the roost. If these dumped paintings hadn't been found and taken along to the Antiques Roadshow, nobody would get a penny. The original owners owe the finder a debt of gratitude for saving their heritage. $200,000 split two ways sounds right to me.

 
At 27/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Anon

You said it. And if the paintings were stolen, why is there no police report of the theft?

I suspect this is the often repeated story of workmen being brought in to renovate an old property. Builder asks, "What do you want me to do with these old paintings?" Client says "Dump them." So they get dumped.

This isn't the first time this has happened and won't be the last.

 
At 27/6/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

strongly believe that the production company that made the program manipulated this,they almost certainly made sure that the Blake descendnnts knew all about what was going on and the appearance of one of them in New York was completely stage managed.They also heightened the upper class versus working oiks angle too in several ways.eg made sure that Selenas's tattoos were prominent. I have no doubt she was encouraged to wear something casual and short sleeved.

 
At 27/6/11, Blogger Tootle said...

Yes, 50-50 is a great idea. The painting is probably worth a lot more now it has all this publicity so everyone SHOULD be happy!

 
At 27/6/11, Blogger looeee said...

the greedy idiot missed her chance when the family lowered their cut to 70% and said make us an offer.
greed got in the way, she was happy with 30 grand at thye start, had the opportunity to turn it into 50 or so but the dollar signs were too much for her.
I hope the family win and she gets nothing but her 15 minutes on TV to show for it

 
At 27/6/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Blakes come across as upper crust bullies in this programme. They only showed any interest in the painting when they discovered it was worth something They have no idea about the lives of ordinary people and how stressful this must be for Selina and her lovely family. Sadly the people who will probably benefit are the lawyers.

 
At 27/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

You might be too cynical here. The programme was made 2 years ago and the best ending would have been a deal between the parties, but that didn't happen. So unsatisfactory ending. Fiona Bruce seemed genuinely interested in the Mum and her family. The lawyer's shock entrance in New York was a blow, but I think the production team tried to film it as it happened.

 
At 27/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Absolutely. Whenever lawyers enter the scene, I remember Dicken's Bleak House, a legal squabble over an estate that goes on for years. By the time it ends and the lawyers have taken their cut, there is nothing left!

 
At 28/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, looeee

She was going to go ahead with the sale and argue about the split later, but the lawyer-relative blocked the sale. So she had no option left. The lawyer also reported her to the police for theft. The aim is to leave her with nothing. What a letdown!

 
At 28/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi again, Tootle

Yes, 50/50 is the fairest deal, but lawyers like to win cases, not do deals. Look at divorce lawyers!

 
At 28/6/11, Anonymous HOLLYWOOD ROAD GALLERY said...

Sothebys showed a lack of professional integrity because they didn`t get 100% clearance from the Blake family .
The over clever Blake family waited to pounce by causing the lot to be withdrawn at very last moment .
The vendor should have been strongly advised to take the increased offer of 30% finders fee and call it aq day

 
At 28/6/11, Blogger Tootle said...

To Looeee,
You have certainly over-simplified a complex situation and besides, there is no need to get nasty!

 
At 28/6/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been said above, but wanted to show my support for the finder. This was obviously thrown away as trash. Someone is lying and I trust the truth will come out. The Blake descendants should receive nothing; if it had been left at the side of the road it would have been worth nothing anyway. Such misplaced conceit and arrogance; hope they get their comeuppance. If the house is so expensive to keep then they should sell it. The theft conspiracy should play out, as it is obvious that one is in progress. Mum and kids should get the lot. Why doesn't someone start a legal fund for them, it would get my money for sure. As Bob Dylan once said "Let me ask you one question... Is your money that good.... Will it buy you forgivenes... Do you think that it should..... I think you will find.... When your death takes it toll... All the money you made... Will never buy back your soul".

 
At 28/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Hollywood

Yes, Sotheby's didn't come out of this too well. They contacted the Blake family, but didn't follow it up. That left the family member who's a lawyer to pile in at the last minute. Disaster!

 
At 28/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Tootle, I'll leave the last word on that with you.

 
At 28/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Anon

Yes, I think the accusation of theft was sharp practice, especially as the vendor had been given the painting by her father, who found it. Shame the Blake family didn't see the painting on Antiques Roadshow. That would have brought the argument forward long before it reached Sotheby's.

 
At 30/6/11, Blogger bookworm said...

There is apparently an assumption all round that the Murray family were the original rightful owners, this has not been proved. The evidence they dug up confirmed the BBC research of the subject and that it had belonged to the Blake family in the 1880's - not the Murray family in the 1980's when it was dumped. Are there no other lines of descent from these 3 Blake children that might have had the painting along with the other Blake items found? No descendants of trusted servants such as a Nanny or a lady's maid who might have been given the sketch as a memento? No theft was ever reported to the police and therefore there is no evidence of such a theft ever taking place. The assumption must be that whoever owned the painting simply threw it away as clutter.
The last minute withdrawal from sale was used as a threat to try and force an acceptance of the Murray ownership under duress. The allegations of theft made to the police have no basis and were obviously used to bring pressure and fear. Mr Murray is a lawyer and well aware of these kind of tactics. Given the foregoing I can only choose to believe Sothebys that they approached the Murray family, spoke with the mother and daughter and sent them a catalogue of the Sale. The family had no knowledge of the painting or any memory of ever having seen it. What changed their mind? Seeing a newspaper article that drew attention to the unexpectedly high value in America. Suddenly its "their" painting.
In response to the comment about the "greed" shown by Selina in not accepting the 25% offered at the time of the sale I would point out that all she was being told was that someone had suddenly appeared claiming ownership and issuing threats to sabotage the sale if they were not given the lion share of the money. No evidence of ownership was advanced, no legal process such as an injunction (which would have had to satisfy a court that there was at least some evidence) was issued simply a bald statement by a "Mr Murray" that he owned it and wanted most of the money "or else". Under the circumstances she made the perfectly reasonable proposal that the sale go ahead and any split be worked out afterwards when there wouls be time to go into the facts.

 
At 30/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Bookworm

You've summed it up very well. The one thing I'll add is that the paintings were dumped near the Blake family home, which strongly suggests the Blakes threw them out more than 20 years ago. It seems the Murrays inherited the Blake family home and think they have rights to anything that was ever thrown out of it.

This issue has certainly raised some interest. If it ever comes to a conclusion, I'll post the news.

 
At 30/6/11, Blogger Tootle said...

To Bookworm. Very well put!

 
At 30/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Nods head to Tootle.

 
At 12/7/11, Anonymous Stockholm said...

Think about it.
What do you expect the Murrays to do? Of course they will try to reclaim the painting and imo rightfully so.
The argument that the Blakes owned the painting and that the Murrays somehow wouldnt is silly. There is a direct bloodline to the Harry Potter looking barrister.
Mr Murray on the other hand is probably making up stuff as he goes but what is he going to do?
You really expect him to say:-Yes we threw it on the dump but now we want it back. Of course not.
This guy is obviously a competent lawyer and as most of them, not at all afraid of bending the truth as it suites him.
The painting belongs to the Murrays no matter how one would like the little man to come out ahead for once.
Bookworm makes a valid point in his argument of her turning down the 25%, however in hindsight, she should have accepted it.
This was a very interesting episode and im glad it airs on Swedish tv(where I live).
Thanks and have a great summer!

 
At 12/7/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Stockholm

I didn't realise this show aired on Swedish TV. Thanks for the information. What you say about lawyers is spot on: they know how to bend the law legally to suit themselves. They must hate it when they come before a jury full of random sceptics.

I don't know if the Rumpole books by John Mortimer are published in Sweden, but they are a joy, taking hard swipes at the legal profession in England.

This show stirred up more interest than any other thing I've blogged about. I'm glad you found it.

 
At 12/7/11, Anonymous Stockholm said...

Thanks for the tip, i will look into J. Mortimer.
The old joke is spot on:
What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?
-A good start!

 
At 12/7/11, Blogger Tootle said...

I can't agree with Stockholm. For all anyone knows, the paintings were sold or given away as a gift or even thrown away during a clear out, and therefore passed out of the Blake's (and their descendants')ownership. It is up to them to provide some solid proof that they own them. I would be extremely surprised if that existed!

 
At 12/7/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Nods head.

The first in the series is Rumpole of the Bailey.

 
At 12/7/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Tootle

Like you, I'm sure these paintings were thrown out, but Stockholm's point is that Murray has legal tricks up his sleeve. He has done what a legitimate owner would. He has belatedly reported the "theft" to the police and has also had the painting added to the Arts Loss Registry. That completely blocks anyone else from selling it. In effect, he has regained ownership.

But he hasn't got the painting, so he can't sell it either! It's a stalemate and a war of nerves. Who'll break first? is the question.

 
At 11/8/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On holiday in New York at the same time as the sale ? And the guy is a lawyer ? Sothebys didnt bother to show the family a copy of the picture ? The whole thing goes to show the upper class will stoop as low as you can go to get their grubby paws on cash. Their tactics were appalling, smarmy lawyer pants knew what he was doing all along - stopping the sale with 10 mins to go was for maximum impact with no other aim in mind but to bully someone he thought was beneath him. He had dollar signs in his eyes all the time. He had never seen the painting, his mother had never seen the painting so only when they were alerted by their little pals at sothebys that a commoner was daring to make money did they act. Horrid horrid little people.

 
At 11/8/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Absolutely. This story made a lot of people boiling mad. I've never had so many comments. If the dispute ever gets resolved, I'll post the story.

 
At 18/8/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Odd how 99% of comments here and elsewhere take it as gospel that the guy found the painting on the rubbish dump. If I had obtained a stolen painting 20 years ago that's exactly the story I'd put forward to justify my possession of it - even down to his very quick (and so out of character) put down of Fiona Bruce when she said he found it on the dump - "No - NEXT to the dump" which he needed to say to exclude the dump owners from any claim. And, as it was in Northern Ireland, the painting must have only been there a day or so to be not damaged by rain - so why was it "NEXT" to the dump ? His story was wholly unconvincing. Just like the lawyer.

 
At 18/8/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

The painting first came to light on The Antiques Roadshow, hosted by Fiona Bruce. If I'd nicked a painting, the last thing I'd do would be to take it along to this BBC programme watched by millions of viewers. I'd take it to an auction house. Philip Mould was the paintings expert on the show who recognized it as a genuine Homer, much to the delight of the finder's daughter who had brought it to the show. Her Dad, the finder, wasn't really interested in the paintings he'd found and had given them to her when she'd spotted them in his loft. The Antiques Roadshow is full of characters who rescued things from skips or bought them for a song at a car boot sale. So all this is why the finder's claim seems genuine.

 
At 6/9/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just watched this show in Oz and while I sympathise about ancestors I really feel that little amart arse lawyer has not done one thing to prove that his family even owned the painting. dollar signs in his eyes. all my congrats to Selena for fighting for her rights

 
At 6/9/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Elgin marbles were not found near a rubbish dump. Give them back to Greece now. Pompous English thieves.No reported theft. Let the poor lady have the painting.

 
At 6/9/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got a great idea - dump your old furniture at the tip, wait for someone to take it home and have it restored, then send the cops round to reclaim it as "stolen property" and accuse them of theft. It's what all the best-dressed people do.

 
At 6/9/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Nasty piece of work, but he's done all the right legal things to lay claim to the painting. But he still hasn't got his hands on it!

 
At 6/9/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Greedy little porker.

 
At 7/9/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also watched it in Oz. What a waste of oxygen that disgusting little sh*t is!!! Makes me think anew re. the UK riots - some chav smashing a shop window and making off with a TV is nothing compared with the scale of the theft/fraud this pompous pr*ck is trying to pull off, but I assume he went to the right school.

His comment about how the woman, a single mum with four kids, was probably looking at "swimming pools and new cars" was utterly beneath contempt.

I hope there's a special place in Hell for people like him.

 
At 7/9/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the painting was stolen, but thrown out with a lot of other 'old' items that were no longer wanted. Family members often declutter and throw out 'old' family photos and paintings when they can no longer remember who is in them, especially if a house has been inherited and new owners are moving in. On the episode of Antiques Roadshow the Homer painting is shown with a number of other items that were found together and which also seem to be family items - photos and portraits. If the people in the portraits, especially the bottom photograph can be identified as relatives of the Blakes, or if the location in the photo is significant to the Blake family, then this would put more credibility to the view that the items were thrown out. If an item has been thrown out then the owner has said they no longer want it and have given up all claim to it. Why would anyone want to steal family photos and portraits of someone else's family?

 
At 7/9/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

He'd probably do well in Hades. Just the place for him.

 
At 7/9/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

I back the skip idea. Treasures are always ending up in skips when families clear out unwanted items. And why would a thief break into a house, steal apparently worthless paintings, then dump them?

 
At 8/9/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason it was outside the dump is probably whoever was doing the clean out, was trying to save tip fees. There was probably a lot of other stuff there as well.This episode shows that the class system is alive and well in England.Give the Mum some cash. She needs some new Tats.

 
At 8/9/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

I don't know enough about Ireland, north or south, to know whether tip fees applied 30 or 40 years ago. You could be right. My idea was that whoever discarded them left them beside the tip in case anyone else might want them, even if only for the frames. Nowadays in the UK people donate their unwanted pictures to charity shops. Those are the places to find cheap frames for your own pictures.

So long as the English public school system survives, we'll have a class system in England. But don't kid yourself the Land of Oz is without class. You have a legal system as well, and lawyers tend to rule democracies. Fee-paying schools, universities and courts of law are all over the world. So class is endemic. It's called different names in different countries.

 
At 8/9/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in Oz & just saw this episode. I was totally mesmerized. This Harry Potter looking twat needs to get back on his broom & piss off! Homer Simpson needs to get on board & take the mickey out of the debacle with a message to give it to the mum!!

 
At 9/9/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

It's a great little series, but this episode has got everyone hopping mad. The painting remains in the auction house vault in New York. So the lawyer hasn't got his grubby little hands on it yet, but he has completely blocked the mum's attempt to sell it. Looks like stalemate. I'd love the BBC to do a follow up in which mum gets at least 50%.

 
At 10/9/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor little painting - nobody loved it until it was deemed valuable. Would they all still fight over it if there was no monetary value but purely sentimental value?

Maybe take it back to the tip so that everyone can get on with their lives.

 
At 10/9/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

The family were proud of it when Winslow Homer painted it, because it was quite a feather in their cap to have such a famous artist paint their three children, but them time moved on and their descendants forgot....

 
At 19/10/11, Anonymous Stockholm said...

Popped in to see if there had been any new twists and turns to this.
Guess the painting is still tucked away in a vault somewhere.
Have a nice autumn CA!

 
At 20/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Stockholm

No news yet. I'll post it as soon as I see it.

Have a nice autumn yourself.

 
At 23/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watching in Australis, I am continually amazed at how ridiculous the English upper class look!
The evidence is that it was originally a family painting, but that was where the evidence stopped. There was no evidence presented that it had remained in the family past the original letters. Like someone else said here - toss away old furniture, have someone recue it, refurbish it and then claim it. Perfect!
Makes me think of the woman on Antiques Roadshow who ran a tip and presented loads of jewellery for valuation - wonder whether she had anyone come out of the woodwork!
As a lawyer, I am ashamed at the behaviour of this bully!

 
At 23/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One has to ask how long the painting woudl actually stay within the family, when at first instance Mr Murray said the proceeds would help fund the upkeep on the family home. Suddenly they want to keep it - Pull the other leg, Mr Murray!

 
At 23/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that the descendants of the Blake family should Prove that the painting rightfully belongs to them .Strange one would think , that they had NO knowledge of the painting . Yet claim it to be stolen . How does one make such a statement if one has NO knowledge of Item and No documentation of the EVER being in Ownership of the Painting ? Could the Painting have belonged to someone else ? Quite possible ! I do hope that the final outcome is in the young Mothers favour.

 
At 23/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 23/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Yes, he is one greedy lawyer. He reported to the police that the Winslow Homer had been stolen 30 odd years after it had been thrown out! I notice he hasn't tried to claim back the valueless family pictures that were thrown out with it. What an opportunist!

 
At 23/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Fund the upkeep! That's a bleeding heart story that doesn't wash with anyone. Greed is all.

 
At 23/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Most people are rooting for the mother. Fingers crossed, but I suspect she is outgunned by the greedy laywer.

 
At 24/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

75/25 split is an insult.
It may be possible that ancestors who owned the painting, sold it to pay for renovations to the estate. There is no proof of theft, they may have sold it.

 
At 24/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I said earlier, any member from a previous generation may have sold this painting, either by the Blakes or their descendants.
No side can prove their claim, it's a win/win situation for lawyers and the makings of a good book.

 
At 24/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The program aired in Australia again last night. It is just as annoying as it was the first time. I think we can clearly dismiss claims of a break-in/robbery because a person like Simon Murry would have reported such an incident to the police immediately. That leaves the probability that the painting was disposed of by the family or a member of the family at some time in the past either through a gift, sale or rubbish disposal. In any event, the true value of the painting was not understood. The FACT that it was unframed and in a folder with other 'worthless' Blake paintings proves that its lineage was unknown to the then owners. Sotheby’s originally had no reason to lie or defraud regarding their inquiries to the Blake descendants therefore I tend to believe that their initial inquiries were genuine and "no knowledge of the painting" was the true response from the Blakes. With no robbery and no knowledge of the painting, all we have is a painting that features distant relatives of a family that lives near to the dump where it was discovered. Simon Murry's description of the painting by the Blakes at the time it was painted could have been found at a library and unfortunately proves nothing but the lineage of the work.

Unfortunately for the Murrys, if a possession is disposed of, given away or sold, it no longer belongs to the person that disposed of it. If this were not the case the economic world would be a mess.

If a possession is stolen or lost; by definition, it still belongs to the owner and must be returned. On the other hand, the very act of disposing of, giving away or selling an article shows a desire to relinquish any claim of ownership over an article. The important point is that it shows intention. IF the Blake’s' descendants owned the painting at all, then they must have disposed of it with the intension of relinquishing any claim of ownership. A dump is the surest way of making such a statement. Clearly the Blake’s’ descendants no longer own or have proof of past ownership of this painting. Any claim of past ownership on their part now does not exist or it would have already been presented. Without such evidence I can’t see how they have any current claim on the work at this time.
Since the painting represents the family’s ancestors, there certainly is a link but I don’t believe that such a link in itself affects a claim of ownership. What if the scene were simply a beach with palm trees and no people?

I would have Sotheby’s sell the painting for the family who found, possess and brought it to sale. If the Murrys have any legitimate claim, their share should be limited to 30% as a token for not having realised its value.

 
At 24/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that if it ever makes it to court the 'Blakes' will have a hard job proving ownership up until it was found dumped. I would laugh my socks off if a former maids family come forward saying it was given to them as gift....
Something that isn't clear to me is did the Blake mother recognise the picture in the paper or did she read the story and decide maybe they had a claim?
Also be interesting to have the sister Sotherbys claim to have spoken to...

 
At 24/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is the possibility that this painting was sold by an ancestor, perhaps that's why it was never reported stolen.

 
At 24/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

I agree the 75/25 offer was an insult, a greedy insult.

I doubt the ancestors sold it, because the children's images would have been important to the family, as well as the association with a famous artist. My guess is that when the Blake's estate was passed down to the Murrays, the subjects and the artist had been forgotten. So they threw out this unwanted tat. If the pictures hadn't been found, they would have been lost forever.

 
At 24/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

I'm convinced the recent report of theft is a crafty legal trick to block any attempt at selling the picture, but it still doesn't get the painting into the lawyer's hands. It remains in Sotheby's vault in New York.

I agree it sounds a good story for a book. The TV programme has certainly grabbed the public's attention. I've never had so many comments on one post.

 
At 24/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Thanks for letting me know the programme had just received a second airing on Australian TV. I wondered why I was receiving a third crop of comments.

I think you summed up the story very well. If Philip Mould hadn't spotted a Winslow Homer at the Antiques Roadshow, this painting would probably have been binned for a second time! He did well. I would never have spotted this as a Winslow Homer painting; it is so uncharacteristic of his work.

 
At 24/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

I believe Sotheby's contacted the Murrays by letter and by phone and spoke to Mrs Murray, who was clueless about what was going on. (That's another nail in the coffin of the theft contention; she would have remembered.) When the son came home, he twigged what was happening and caught a plane to New York to throw his spanner into the works.

 
At 25/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am embarrassed to say I am a lawyer after the unethical way that Mr Murray is behaving! How dare he?

 
At 25/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

It's good to know that a lawyer finds Mr Murray's behaviour unethical. Could a very belated and probably spurious report of theft come under the heading of wasting police time?

 
At 31/10/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost sympathised with Harry Potter until his 'swimming pool and new car' comment. I mean, the provenance of the painting does link it with the family and, putting aside the question of whether or not the Murrys should have any claim to the proceeds of the sale, this isn't a feather-light argument they are making. But such thinly veiled contempt for a woman they have never met who is quite sensibly protecting her claim of ownership? How anybody could make such a stereotyping, cruel comment on television and not feel deeply ashamed is beyond me. Money to the Mum, and down with the lordling knobs who didn't even have the wit or artistic nous to realise they had a masterpiece in the family.

 
At 31/10/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

He is one unpopular lawyer! Good point that the family was daft enough to lose track of the importance of that painting. It seems to have become naff clutter to be thrown out!

 
At 12/11/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That tells you what to do next time you find something valuable, either enjoy it yourself or sell it in the black market.

B -This happened to a single lady with 4 kids knows nothing about laws so she was an easy target and they took advantage of her situation.

C -she kept the painting for along time and she should be awarded for keeping it in such a good care..no one does the safety box service for free.

 
At 12/11/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Her dad found it and gave it to her. If she hadn't taken it to the Antiques Roadshow, it would probably have been lost forever! That should be worth a minimum of 50% of its value.

 
At 14/11/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Blake family behaved egregiously. Several of the descendant's statements were tantamount to slander of the finders and he also discredited the professional practices of Sotheby's who came out looking inept at best. The alleged letters which the Black family produced only prove provenance of the painting in authenticating that indeed such a painting was executed, but not that the family at any point had it in their possession. The idea that any court would not be able to make that distinction is ludicrous. The circumstantial evidence is clear that if indeed it was in the possession of the family it was tossed and Sotheby's should pursue this case on the side of the finder simply to prove that they carried out due diligence. And the Blake's baseless allegations of criminal wrongdoing should be met with a defamation suit. If anything, this program is not only a reaffirmation of British class politics, but a caution for anyone thinking of commissioning Sotheby's.

 
At 14/11/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Well put.

Without Philip Mould's researches in the West Indies, the painting wouldn't have been authenticated and traced to the original family.

The Mum is an ordinary person who can't afford a lawyer. (Legal Aid only applies to those on criminal charges or to undesirable aliens faced with deportation!) So indeed UK law generally protects the rich.

Sotheby's New York does seem to have been a bit slack in its due diligence inquiries. I wonder if Sotheby's London might have followed the case more closely. But the American market would fetch a much higher price, so New York was the place to go.

The BBC has gained a lot of mileage out of this programme. It would be nice to see it invest in a lawyer for Mum and make a follow-up programme.

 
At 6/12/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I so TOTALLY believe that murray guy. I believe beyond any doubt that if the other folks had the money to mount a proper challenge, his claims STILL would have stood up to scrutiny.

Just my opinion.

Oh ... is that a unicorn?

*runs*

 
At 6/12/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Unicorn?

 
At 8/12/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

:-)

Do unicorns exist?

 
At 8/12/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Ah. No, unless you count the swordfish. Narwhale maybe?

 
At 2/1/12, Blogger clive said...

Hi there,antique roadshow featuring Homer painting aired in South Africa this week.¿Any further news please?

 
At 2/1/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Clive

Not yet, I'm afraid. I'm hoping the BBC will do a follow-up programme, but nothing so far. I'll post news as soon as I have it.

 
At 5/1/12, Anonymous Art Lover said...

What a fascinating blog....a very boring day at work has been enlightened!

Firstly I think that everyone who hasn't been ridiculously nasty about either party have very good points.

I watched the programme, it was fascinating. My support goes out to the Woman who was given this lovely peice as a present from her father. I found that the lawyer looked very nervous being interviewed and was obviously bending the truth to suit his case.

All in all I think it's too dodgy for him to win. Whoever pointed out that someone who stole a painting isn't going to take it on TV has hit the nail on the head, I'm not sure anyone could be that stupid!

On a totally different note why does him being from a 'higher class' as you put it matter? snobbery, reverse or otherwise is a waste of time and energy, at the end of the day you need to look at the facts of the painting's provenance not the people involved, they're not the ones being sold at auction. It just makes this whole conversation turn nasty!

Be nice people!!

 
At 5/1/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Art Lover

Some of the comments have been a bit over the top. I keep trying to steer a middle path, but this programme really annoyed a lot of people. No resolution in sight as yet. Fingers crossed the BBC will do a follow-up programme.

 
At 10/2/12, Blogger Lostheart said...

I just saw this episode and I agree with plenty of the other commenters about how Selina appears to be getting shafted.

It is unbelievable that events like this can be allowed to happen. If they wanted the painting that badly, then buy it back from the people who have held it in their possession and kept it safe for the past 20+ years. If it means outbidding someone else for it then you would feel justified that the money is being well spent.

 
At 10/2/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Lostheart

It is for good reason that Justice is depicted wearing a blindfold. What is obvious to us....

I emailed the BBC about this show, suggesting a follow up. No reply, but recently I posted news that the BBC has begun filming a new series. Maybe it will begin with an update on the previous series.

 
At 13/2/12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This program has just aired on TVO in Canada. Mr. Murray may have provided a link between his family and the painting but I saw no indication of ownership let alone proof. Interestingly, being a lawyer, Mr. Murray obviously knows that he has presented no proof of ownership and no proof of theft. I fail to see how the common law could support a claim that if an ancestors had once owned a property, somehow, generations later, a descendant would have an inalienable right to that property, notwithstanding the possibility that the property had been given away as a gift or indeed thrown out.

My family had lost a farm in a corrupt land deal in 1830. Do I have a claim on that farm 180 years later? Do any of the dozens and dozens of descendents have a claim? Such nonsense.

 
At 13/2/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Absolutely. What about that tribe of Indians who sold New York State for a handful of beads? Biggest land grab of all time. They wouldn't have a leg to stand on if they tried to reclaim New York!

I'm sure the Scottish police aren't wasting any time on a "theft" reported 30 years too late. Many of the treasures that turn up on Antiques Roadshow were found in skips or bought for a song at car boot sales. Families throw out their unwanted clutter without checking its value.

It happens in institutions too. I picked up a book on miniature paintings in a library book sale, priced £1. It's worth £100.

The fact that Mr Murray has reported the "theft" to the Art Loss Register is a double edged sword. It means no auction house can sell it. So the painting remains in limbo, officially unowned and unsellable. Mr Murray may have outsmarted himself.

 
At 10/4/12, Anonymous Carol Spencer said...

Selena appears to have a strong moral sense of right and wrong, which Murray the liar, I mean lawyer, obviously lacks.His desperation and greed shows in his white knuckles as he clutches the letters and documents describing the provenance.I hope he is taxed to the hilt by the U.S and U.K if and when the painting gets sold. He perpetuates the stereotype of crooked lawyers and snobby overprivileged slackers It is he who seems to long for pools and cars as evidenced by his greed and lack of scruples.Finders keepers losers weepers!Give her 50%!

 
At 10/4/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Carol

I fully agree. A 50/50 deal would sort out the problem. The lawyer is greedy for something that was never his. He wants it all.

 
At 11/5/12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the mom and her family should get complete ownership of the painting. I pray that the value of the painting has increased even more, with all this publicity. Maybe her children will be able to go to college and make a difference in their lives.

Money is a tool, and in the right hands, it can be a real blessing.

 
At 11/5/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

A good thought. I agree.

 
At 24/5/12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TODAY IS MAY 23, 2012 AND LAST NIGHT I WATCHED THE PROGRAM HERE IN SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA.
THE FIRST THOUGHT THAT COMES TO MIND IS "THE MEASURE OF A MAN CAN BE SIZED UP BY HOW HE TREATS PEOPLE" CLEARLY THIS MURRAY POSSESSES SO MUCH ARROGANCE THAT HE
APPEARS TO BE NO MORE INTELLIGENT
THAN A BOX OF ROCKS.
HERE IN THE STATES WE HAVE A LEGAL
CLAUSE THAT STATES IN THE CASE OF "ABANDONMENT" THE ITEM PASSES TO THE "FINDER" AFTER NINETY DAYS.
IT IS CLEAR THAT A REASONABLE AMOUNT OF TIME HAS GONE BY AND THE ITEM'S OWNERSHIP HAS CHANGED.
THE END... NO DISCUSSIONS...DONE!
ONCE THE PAINTING APPEARED ON THE ANTIQUES ROADSHOW IT BECAME PUBLIC
DOMAIN AND ANY CLAIMS SHOULD HAVE BEEN FILED THEN.
IT IS TIME FOR SELINA TO PUT TOGETHER A LEGAL DEFENSE FUND TO
MOUNT A VIGOROUS STRATEGY TO
QUASH THIS CLAIM OF OWNERSHIP.

 
At 24/5/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

We have a similar law in the UK. If you find something, you're supposed to hand it in at a police station and leave your name and address. If the find hasn't been collected by its owner within 3 months, the police contact you and you get to keep it. As far as I know, this is the limit of the law, but I'm no solicitor.

The legal fund sounds an excellent idea. Here, as in the US, going to court to fight a case is beyond the means of ordinary folk. Lawyers are for the rich, unless you're charged with a crime; then you get legal aid if you can't afford a defence lawyer. However, in civil cases, a good solicitor can write you a legal letter for a modest fee. But if you can't afford to go to court, it's a bluff.

 
At 18/7/12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw an episode of Fake or Fortune, about this painting. So sad that money has to spoil this circumstance. I know that this took place a couple of years ago. At the time of the filming, Southby's was holding it until the problem of ownership was resolved. Is it still there? If so, it seems a shame. No one is getting money, no one gets to enjoy the painting. Perhaps it should be held in a museum, so that people can at least get to enjoy it.

 
At 18/7/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

The situation is still stalemate as far as I know. A new series of Fake Or Fortune is being filmed and will be released in the UK this year. I'm hoping for an update on the first series then.

I hate to see worthy works of art disappearing into private vaults, but that's the nature of the art market. Museums couldn't afford to buy all the great art up for sale. In fact the recession is causing many of them to sell works or to close, here and in the USA.

 
At 21/7/12, Blogger honeyofagal said...

am i the only one that noticed the owners evidence said a "sketch" was made and didnt the art exspert say that he often used photos (hmm and maybe sketches) to PAINT his paintings!! where is it said he PAINTED it for them!! or that they RECIEVED the painting.... he could have painted for his own collection. or given them a sketch and later painted a painting from his excellent memory for his own collection. they cant prove painting was ever theirs to begin with. i could paint a picure of Obama but doesnt mean its his painting!!

 
At 21/7/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Honeyofagal

The word "sketch" is vague. It can mean pencil and paper or chalk drawing or a painting. So you can't put too much on it.

I agree there is no officially recorded line of inheritance from the original owner to the lawyer who now claims it. That weakens his case considerably.

 
At 21/7/12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going to try to find a way to send a little money to help with Ms. Varney's legal fees. What town does she live in or does anyone have a mailing address for her?

 
At 21/7/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hello

That's very nice of you. All I can suggest is sending it to

Ms Varney
c/o Fake or Fortune
BBC
London

I know that's vague, so you might want to send a letter before you send any money.

If I find more information, I'll add it to this post.

 
At 22/1/13, Anonymous Peter35 said...

The Blakes/Murrays reported no break-ins or burglaries, therefore it seems obvious to me that at some point they had a 'clean out' and since the painting was not very prepossessing--they dumped it; and left it outside the dump proper so if anyone wanted it--it was theirs. For Simon Murray to act as he has done was/is scurrilous. Typical thieving lawyer.

 
At 22/1/13, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Peter

You're not alone in thinking this. I'm still waiting for an update on this sage.

 
At 25/1/13, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's to say that sometime in the past, the Blakes GAVE AWAY the painting - usually that happens to award some hired helper, like a maid or driver. If that happenned, and even they threw it out, it's obvious that once thrown out into a public dump, it's public property. To even conceive that the former (possible) owner can come back and claim it, is reprehensive. What a crock.

 
At 26/1/13, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Australia now? Every time this programme is shown in a new country, I get complaints about shyster lawyers! I agree.

 
At 19/5/13, Anonymous Anonymous said...

biggest scam by reject lawyer. He is the loser outcast of the family and all he has done is prove it. loooooooooooooooooser!!!

 
At 19/5/13, Blogger Ian Cox said...

Still no resolution to this case. All the lawyer had to do was offer a 50/50 split on the price gained at auction. I'm sure it would have been accepted, but he had to be greedy and pretend the painting had been stolen. As far as I know the painting remains in the vault of the US auction house and will remain there until the dispute is resolved....

 
At 16/12/13, Blogger Ian Cox said...

The new series of Fake or Fortune? begins on BBC One on Sunday 19 January 2014 (in the UK).

 
At 17/12/13, Blogger Tootle said...

Thanks for letting us know! Looking forward to it!

 
At 17/12/13, Blogger Ian Cox said...

Hi, Tootle. You're welcome. I'll post the details on my main blog when the BBC publishes them. (I subscribe to Philip Mould & Co e-newsletter. That's how I found out ahead of time.)

 
At 17/1/14, Blogger mimi said...

The programme has just been shown in Thailand and I am furious!

I agree with the all the comments about Murray - what a horror! Typical of his type, and obviously up to no good.

Back on the day it was common practice to give away unwanted artworks to long-term staff on their retirement, especially pictures showing family members as a souvenir.

As a dormer antiques dealer based in London for many years, I'm fully aware of the modus operandi of the major auction houses - most of the stories never make it out of the trade's gossip circles - perhaps I should make a documentary or, better still, write a book.

Having been a single mother myself, I'm so sorry for the Mum - but she's not the first one to be stitched up by a combination of the hi-so upper classes and Sothebys, and she won't be the last!

Sophie

 
At 17/1/14, Blogger Ian Cox said...

Hi, Sophie

Thailand, eh? Fake or Fortune? gets around and this particular episode infuriates almost everyone. Series 3 starts in the UK this weekend. So more annoyance to come! But isn't it a fascinating programme. Best arts programme ever.

 
At 27/2/14, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an artist who is appalled by the Winslow Homer watercolor story and the art market. The Varney family that found the work at the dump in the 1980's did the art world a favor in saving the work only to be screwed in the end by a wealthy ancestors of the Blakes. Simon Murray at first seemed reasonable but did throw rather insulting remarks at the Varney Family who are lower middle class by American standards are the real victims in this story. The article was balanced and really pointed out the evil side of the art market and its practitioners. Looking at it in all fairness maybe the the Varney family should have allowed the Homer work to parish in the rain at a landfill, because when this story is over the Varney family be in debit for the rest of their lives and Murray will profit.

 
At 27/2/14, Blogger Ian Cox said...

Hi, Anon

Most of us are appalled by this story. Murray is a lawyer and has pulled every legal trick in the book, including reporting the painting as stolen. That gives the auction house no option but to hold the painting until ownership is proved. So it's a Mexican stand off. Something has got to give. Murray's call.

There's worse coming up in a future edition of Fake or Fortune? recently shown in the UK. A painting is proven to be a fake and is ordered to be destroyed against its owner's wishes, and he paid a fortune for it! But most of the outcomes are good. It's a great show.

 
At 29/9/14, Blogger reddaro said...

I feel so sorry for the finder,that snobbery coming from the blakes is sicking,they would give a shit about the painting if it wasn't worth so much,they only came looking for the painting when they heard how much its was worth,the finder will never get money from the painting as with lawyers fees now she will be at a lose,the blakes are lawyers so that wouldn't cost them a penny,why they don't just give the finder 60k and be done,it will change her family's lifes but would do noting to the blakes bank accounts.karma will come calling on the blakes one day..hope all goes well for the finder soon..

 
At 29/9/14, Blogger Ian Cox said...

Hi, Reddaro

I hope the finder gets his reward too. So long as the picture is on the Art Loss Register, nobody can sell it. I still haven't heard the outcome of this saga of greed and dishonesty. I will post news when I get it.

 
At 26/6/15, Blogger Ian Cox said...

A new series of Fake or Fortune? comes to BBC One on Sunday 5 July at 8pm.

 

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