A couple were stunned to find out that the fake Constable painting they had hanging up behind a telly in a spare room was not only an authentic piece, but also worth up to £2 million.
Simon Craufurd and wife Adity had a painting lying around at their home in Scotland, having given up the hope that it was worth anything after being told it was a fake when they had it valued for insurance purposes.
A plaque on the frame said the painting was ‘Old Bridge over the Avon’ by John Constable, who was well known for his landscapes.
However, when the Craufurds showed the picture to experts on new Channel 4 programme Millionaire Hoarders, they were in for a shock.
They needed to cobble together some cash to help with the maintenance costs of their home - which just so happens to be an 800-year-old castle that they inherited from Simon’s family.
Despite owning business ventures on site, including an activity centre and restaurant, the couple still struggle with how expensive the castle is to run, setting them back about £100,000 a year.
Expert Ronnie Archer-Morgan, who specialises in collectables and curiosities, visited the Craufords with antiques dealer Clive Downham to see if there was anything lying around that was worth anything.
Along with a letter from Robert Burns and an antique hotel guest book, the painting caught Ronnie’s eye.
“Gosh, that’s says that’s Constable on there,” he said, clambering behind the TV to see the picture closer.
After being told the painting had been dismissed by a local auction house as a fake, Ronnie wasn’t completely convinced.
“Interestingly, this is glazed,” he noted.
“Someone’s thought to preserve this.”
But while he sensed there might be more to the story, he warned Simon and Adity that the journey to authenticating the item ‘could be a long one’.
"Might take a couple of months, maybe six months, maybe even a year,” he said.
“I’m a bit daunted, but not so much so that I won’t do it. For Simon and Adity, I had to say, ‘There’s a possibility here and I’m prepared to do the homework.’”
After showing the artwork to a Constable specialist, Ronnie said: “If it turns out to be a Constable, the auctioneer would suggest an estimate of £800,000-£1m.
“There’s a big if, but I have a lot of confidence in this.
“The next part of the journey will require a lot of confidence backed up by a little bit of money and that could take 6 months up to a year.”
They later found out that the bridge in the painting wasn’t over the River Avon, as the plaque suggested, but more likely along the Thames - an error that may have come from the framer, but also a detail that can help with authenticating the piece.
Eventually, Ronnie had some great news for the Craufords, not only telling them that there had been huge steps with the verification process, but also that the picture was worth even more than they’d initially thought.
He said: “I’m so excited, I don’t know what words to use! In your relative’s correspondence we found documents that were dated 1918.
“The chap that owned your painting was the finest collector of his day, JP Heseltine.
“He is so important. He owned 600 old master drawings including Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Dürer, Constable... and your painting came from this man’s collection.
“This provenance is off the scale! You’ve got gold.
“All that’s left now is a Constable expert’s opinion and the forensic work, this just elevates the value more to double, £1-2 million.”
Not a bad day at the office, eh?Featured Image Credit: Channel 4