Fake or Fortune?

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Fake or Fortune?
Presented byFiona Bruce
Philip Mould
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series10
No. of episodes39
ProducersSimon Shaw
Robert Murphy
Lucy Swingler
Running time60 minutes
Production companyBBC Studios Factual Entertainment Productions
Original networkBBC One
Original release19 June 2011 (2011-06-19) –
present (present)

Fake or Fortune? is a BBC One documentary television series which examines the provenance and attribution of notable artworks.[1] Since the first series aired in 2011, Fake or Fortune? has drawn audiences of up to 5 million viewers in the UK,[2] the highest for an arts show in that country.[3]

Fake or Fortune? was created by art dealer and art historian Philip Mould and producer Simon Shaw. It is co-presented by Mould and journalist Fiona Bruce, with specialist research carried out by Bendor Grosvenor during the first five series. Forensic analysis and archival research is carried out by various fine art specialists. Each series first aired on BBC One, except the third series accidentally first aired on SVT.[4]


In each episode Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce focus their attention on a painting (or a group of paintings), usually related to one particular artist. They travel around the country and the world, studying the artists at exhibitions, meeting up with international experts and following up local leads. Series 7, episode 5 saw the show tackle their first sculpture, a work attributed to Alberto Giacometti. The team, assisted by art historian Bendor Grosvenor in series 1 to 5, and professor Aviva Burnstock, Head of the Department of Conservation and Technology at The Courtauld Institute of Art, in later series,[5] investigate the paintings on a number of fronts: establishing the provenance of the piece by working backwards from present day to the time of the work's creation; on a forensic level, with investigation and scientific tests on the materials used to help establish specific time frames; and examining the unique painting styles and quirks of the artist. This evidence is then presented to established authorities to help demonstrate the legitimacy of the work and its possible addition to the relevant catalogue raisonné.

Series overview[edit]

SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
1419 June 2011 (2011-06-19)10 July 2011 (2011-07-10)
2316 September 2012 (2012-09-16)30 September 2012 (2012-09-30)
3419 January 2014 (2014-01-19)9 February 2014 (2014-02-09)
445 July 2015 (2015-07-05)26 July 2015 (2015-07-26)
5417 July 2016 (2016-07-17)28 August 2016 (2016-08-28)
6320 August 2017 (2017-08-20)10 September 2017 (2017-09-10)
7512 August 2018 (2018-08-12)9 September 2018 (2018-09-09)
8425 July 2019 (2019-07-25)15 August 2019 (2019-08-15)
9428 July 2021 (2021-07-28)18 August 2021 (2021-08-18)
10423 August 2022 (2022-08-23)TBA


Fake or Fortune? was created by art dealer and art historian Philip Mould and producer Simon Shaw, inspired by Mould's book Sleuth (2009), which was the programme's working title during the development phase.[6] It is co-presented by Mould and journalist Fiona Bruce, with specialist research carried out by Bendor Grosvenor during the first five series.[7]

After five series, Grosvenor left the show to start an art programme of his own, Britain's Lost Masterpieces. There was a minor controversy as to possible similarities between Fake or Fortune? and this new show.[8][9]

The team does not always succeed. Philip Mould was stated to have considered the Series 4 case of a Churchill painting as one of the most unsatisfactory endings to date, before it was finally authenticated in 2020.[10]


Series 1 (2011)[edit]

There were four episodes in the first series, which started on 19 June 2011:

No. in
Title [11]Produced and directed byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [12]
11"Monet"Nicky Illis19 June 2011 (2011-06-19)4.04
The authenticity of the Monet painting Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil.[13][14] The Wildenstein Institute, presented with considerable evidence of the painting's authenticity, controversially rejected it as a Monet and was criticised by Philip Mould.[15] (The owner subsequently sued the Institute, but lost.)[16]
22"Homer"Nicola Lafferty26 June 2011 (2011-06-26)3.96
The ownership of the painting Children Under a Palm by Winslow Homer. Found dumped next to a rubbish tip, it turns out to be a lost work by one of America's most important 19th-century artists.[17]
33"Van Meegeren"Nicky Illis3 July 2011 (2011-07-03)4.1
The authenticity of the painting The Procuress, owned by the Courtauld Institute. It was determined to be a forgery committed by Han van Meegeren.[18]
44"Rembrandt"Ben Southwell10 July 2011 (2011-07-10)3.8
Man in an Oriental Costume, once attributed to Rembrandt as a portrait of the artist's father, was on sale in an auction house in Cape Town, South Africa. The painting was identified as a work looted by the Nazis and was reattributed to Isaac de Jouderville.[19]

Series 2 (2012)[edit]

The first episode of the second series was shown in the UK on 16 September 2012. The series had three episodes:

No. in
Title [11]Produced and directed byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [12]
51"Degas and the Little Dancer"Robert Murphy16 September 2012 (2012-09-16)3.83
Danseuse Bleue et Contrebasses, with an apparent signature by Edgar Degas. It had been bought as a Degas in 1948 with an outline provenance going back to the artist's studio. Scientific analysis of the paint confirmed that it was consistent with the 1890s. Research confirmed the provenance, and the painting was accepted as an authentic Degas and added to the catalogue raisonné.[20]
62"Turner: A Miscarriage of Justice?"Nicky Illis[22]23 September 2012 (2012-09-23)4.1
Three paintings attributed to J. M. W. Turner, The Beacon Light, Off Margate and Margate Jetty, in the collection of the National Museum of Wales.[21] These had been donated by two sisters: Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. In the 1950s, they had been judged to be fake, but as a result of the programme's research, they are now accepted as genuine.
73"Van Dyck: What Lies Beneath"Rachel Jardine30 September 2012 (2012-09-30)4.37
A portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria, as St Catherine attributed to Anthony van Dyck, belonging to Mould.[23][24] This was shown to be an incomplete portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria (wife of Charles I) which had later been enlarged and painted over.

Series 3 (2014)[edit]

The third series features four episodes. The first episode was first shown on 27 December 2013 on Sweden's SVT, with episodes 2 and 3 shown in the following weeks.[25] Philip Mould described the appearance on Swedish television weeks ahead of the British premiere as a "weird BBC World cock-up".[26] SVT on its website described the programme at the time as a "Brittisk dokumentärserie från 2012" (British documentary from 2012).[27]

No. in
Title [11]Produced and directed byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [12]
81"Vuillard"Nicky Illis[29]19 January 2014 (2014-01-19)4.58
One of a group of paintings reputedly by French post-impressionist Édouard Vuillard, purchased speculatively by a writer, Keith Tutt. The investigation unearths documentation proving the painting is genuine and worth approximately £250,000.[28] The Wildenstein Institute panel unanimously accepted Tutt's painting as Vuillard's work. The programme also shows that the painting is part of a pair, the other having been sold by the previous owner on eBay.[28]
92"Constable"Robert Murphy[33]26 January 2014 (2014-01-26)N/A
Two different paintings attributed to John Constable,[30] one of Yarmouth Jetty and the other called A Sea Beach Brighton. The former turns out to be "most likely" by Constable, but heavily overpainted by another hand; the latter, formerly in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts until sold in the 1990s, is deemed a genuine Constable.[31][32]
103"Chagall"Robert Murphy[35]2 February 2014 (2014-02-02)4.48
Nude, 1909–10 was bought by a Leeds property developer in the belief that it was a genuine but unauthenticated work by Marc Chagall. Forensic tests showed that it was painted with pigments not available at the time it was purported to have been painted. It was submitted to the "Chagall Committee", who ruled that it was a fake and ordered its destruction.[34]
114"Gainsborough"Ben Southwell[36]9 February 2014 (2014-02-09)N/A
The team investigate two paintings from the Your Paintings web site, Imaginary Landscape and Portrait of Joseph Gape, attempting to show they were by Thomas Gainsborough. They successfully convinced Hugh Belsey, the world's leading Gainsborough expert, after he deemed Imaginary Landscape to be a Gainsborough drawing that was reworked in the 19th century, while the portrait was considered a lost Gainsborough painting.[36]

Series 4 (2015)[edit]

The series had four episodes:

No. in
Title [11]Produced and directed byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [12]
121"Lowry"Rachel Jardine[38]5 July 2015 (2015-07-05)4.85
Experts determined whether three works - Lady with Dogs, Darby and Joan and Crowd Scene - were genuine paintings by L. S. Lowry or forgeries. They had been bought in the early 1970s by a Cheshire businessman, Gerald Ames. Lowry was described as "probably the most faked British artist, his deceptively simple style of painting making him a soft target for forgers." Experts analysed the paint used in one of the paintings, but the white paint did not match the flake white Lowry claimed to have always used. Lowry claimed to have only used five colours, flake white (lead white), ivory black, vermillion red, Prussian blue and yellow ochre, produced by Winsor & Newton. Photographic evidence from the 1950s, however, showed that he had experimented with both titanium white and zinc white: Darby and Joan contained traces of zinc white. The same painting was also plainly visible in a contemporary BBC documentary film.[37]
132"Renoir"Nicky Illis[39]12 July 2015 (2015-07-12)5.3
Nicky Philipps, an artist noted for her pictures of the royal family, asks the team to investigate a painting which hangs on the walls of Picton Castle, once the Philipps family seat. Two catalogues raisonnés of the works of Renoir disagreed about the authenticity of an unsigned work, known as Boats on the Seine at Argenteuil. Despite an inclusion on the catalogue of Bernheim-Jeune Galerie, the team are unsuccessful in changing the opinion of the Wildenstein Institute.
143"A Mystery Old Master"Francis Welch[42]19 July 2015 (2015-07-19)4.6
The team members investigate a painting of the Lamentation of Christ that hangs in St John the Baptist Church in Tunstall, Lancashire.[40] After research in Venice and elsewhere, the 16th-century painting is discovered to be by Francesco Montemezzano. It was probably donated to the church in the early 19th century by Frederick Needham (the church's vicar from 1810 to 1816), who was a half-brother of the church's patron, Richard Toulmin North of Thurland Castle.[41]
154"Munnings and Churchill"Simon Mansfield[44]26 July 2015 (2015-07-26)5.3

Charles Henty seeks to validate the provenance of two inherited paintings, one by Alfred Munnings and one, putatively by Winston Churchill, discovered in a coal hole of a house in Ebury Street.

Philip Mould visits David Coombs, a leading expert on the art of Churchill, who is unconvinced by the painting on account of the unfamiliarly well painted figures. He is particularly concerned by the colouring which, he feels, is tonally dissimilar to Churchill's accepted oeuvre. In France, the team discover that the painting is of the Fountain of Saint-Paul in Saint-Paul-de-Vence. They are introduced to Joy Lutenbacher, who recalls that her aunt, Joan Smith, witnessed Churchill paint the fountain and provides a signed photo of Churchill given to her aunt, dated October 1945. Bendor Grosvenor also finds supporting evidence in a 1949 newsreel. Despite this evidence, Coombs' initial 'serious misgivings' have not disappeared, and he decides to include the painting in his catalogue raisonné, although only in the 'Mysteries' section. In September 2020, the painting was finally authenticated after a thumbnail photograph of it had been discovered at Chartwell, Churchill's family home in Kent.[43][10]

Munnings' painting Dedham Winter Landscape is found to be of a scene which the artist painted more than five times. In a twist of fate, the church depicted in the painting is the final resting place of a notorious art forger, Tom Keating, who was known to have forged Munnings' work. However, this is a mere coincidence and experts Lorian Peralta-Ramos and Dr Bill Teatheredge agree that the painting should be accepted as a work by Munnings.

Series 5 (2016)[edit]

Filming for the fifth series started on 24 November 2015.[45] The four-episode series was broadcast on 17 July 2016.[46]

No. in
Title [11]Produced and directed byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [12]
161"Freud"Rachel Jardine17 July 2016 (2016-07-17)4.63
A portrait purportedly done by Lucian Freud is brought to the attention of the team. However, an outright denial by Freud himself looms over the team; the artist claimed he never painted the artwork under investigation. Faced with repudiating the words of the artist himself, the team trace the painting back to Freud's time during his teenage years at East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, just before the outbreak of World War II. Fiona finds out through both a previous work's history and through an interview with Freud's daughter that Freud didn't consider works he finished himself to be worthy of his attention, especially ones where someone else had done work on his artwork, suggesting a reason for his denial. Despite the hope of DNA evidence by an embedded hair in the painting not panning out, notes from Freud's solicitor and forensic evidence of the paint and the paint strokes indicate most of the painting was done by one hand, possibly done on an abandoned canvas that already was painted beforehand at the art school Freud attended and then discarded to the side. In the end, when presented with the collected evidence, a panel of three experts on Freud's work deem the painting to have been mostly done by Freud, significantly increasing its value at auction.
172"Delaroche"Nicky Illis24 July 2016 (2016-07-24)4.84
A woman asks the team to prove a work, Saint Amelia, Queen of Hungary, housed at Castle of Park in Aberdeenshire, was painted by Paul Delaroche. The painting was acquired by the woman's late husband when he worked for Christie's back in the 1980s, but he never managed to get it authenticated before he died. Delaroche did paint Saint Amelia as a royal commission done for Maria Amalia, wife of Louis Philippe I, before they were deposed in 1848. The artwork could thus be a lost work from the French Revolution of 1848. The alternative Philip needs to investigate is if it is instead a (legitimate) copy done by a contemporary painter, as Delaroche proved popular to replicate. At Claremont in Surrey, where Queen Victoria offered the deposed couple refuge from the Revolution, Bendor reveals that the artwork in question did reach English shores, as it is prominently displayed in an 1866 watercolour of Maria Amalia's bedroom by historical artist Joseph Nash. Differences in colour to known copies of the painting are scientifically explained by pigment degradation. Though the team is unable to establish the provenance between the death of Maria Amalia's son in 1896 and the 1980s purchase, the painting is still deemed to be a genuine Delaroche and the lost work of Maria Amalia. In an 11th hour surprise, the appraiser reveals a letter written by Delaroche where he detailed how he was disgusted at the pitiful state of the picture when he saw it while looking over the commission of a stained glass window version of his artwork and undertook the task of restoring the picture back to its former state, thus explaining the rest of the artefacts revealed by the forensic analysis. The painting was sold via Christie's in July 2019 for £33,750.[47]
183"Rodin"Francis Welch31 July 2016 (2016-07-31)4.31
A Lincolnshire resident asks the team to investigate a sketch that is purported to be done by Auguste Rodin. Known primarily for sculptures like The Kiss and The Thinker, Rodin was also accomplished as an artist in other forms, his best known work being a series of sketches of a Cambodian dance troupe that toured in Paris around the turn of the 20th century. The drawing was inherited from the owner's mother while she was living in Mexico in the 1940s after doing some work for the interior of a restaurant. Bendor's research reveals that of an estimated 150 Cambodian sketches done by Rodin, 120 are in the Musee Rodin and 21 authentic works are in other museums, which leaves fewer than 10 in private hands. In addition, Rodin was an often-counterfeited artist in both his sculptures and artwork. The name Ernest Durig pops up in the research: at the time, he was known as a respectable sculptor and art dealer, but long after the drawing was given to the owner's mother, Durig was exposed as a prolific forger of Rodin; his name was most recently at the center of a Rodin sketches forgery scandal at the Musée d'Orsay in 2014. Going to the Musée Rodin, Fiona finds out that the dancers had mesmerized Rodin so much that one series of sketches was done on wrapping paper obtained from a greengrocer, due to his forgetting his sketch paper. When looking at several other sketches, Philip latches on to a particular technique of Rodin, where he blotted the watercolours with minimal strokes while making the dancers seem to be floating. Denied access to a cache of Durig sketches at MoMA for comparison, a signature expert casts more doubt, leading Fiona to reveal that Rodin would leave it up to recipients of his sketches to make their own signature, as he couldn't be cared to sign his works. The appraiser who revealed the Rodin fakes at the Musée d'Orsay deems the sketch to be not by Rodin, but by the forger Durig.
194"Portraits"Robert Murphy21 August 2016 (2016-08-21)4.22
As a first for the programme, the team focuses on more than just one work. In this case, three portraits – the first of a young lady that is attributed to Philip Mercier, the second of a formidable-looking man said to have been painted by Adolph von Menzel, and the third of a child believed to have been painted by Willem de Kooning. Together with specialist Dr Bendor Grosvenor, they conclude that Portrait of a Lady was painted by Mercier (increasing its value from £50 to £5,000) and that The Old General was a clever forgery. In the third case, the team feels that Portrait of a Child likely was by de Kooning. However, they can not get it authenticated, or even clear up its prior ownership. Unless the current owners can prove that the person they bought it from had the legal right to sell it, they might not actually own the painting.

Series 6 (2017)[edit]

The sixth series started on 20 August 2017.[48] It was originally planned to have four episodes before one, "Giacometti", was postponed.[49]

No. in
Title [11]Produced and directed byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [12]
201"Constable"Nicky Illis20 August 2017 (2017-08-20)5.15
A painting of Willy Lott's Cottage, previously bought and sold, twice, by Philip Mould is shown to be by John Constable. Mould's previous attempts to prove this had failed to convince experts. Its provenance, from the current owner all the way back to Constable's estate, via the Doheny family,[50] whisky distiller Tommy Dewar and soap manufacturer Thomas J. Barratt, is established. Stylistic details, verified by Constable experts Annie Lyles and Sarah Cove, date the painting to the correct period. Mould, who sold the painting for £35,000 in 2000, is sanguine about losing out on its estimated £2million value.[51]
212"Tom Roberts"Francis Welch3 September 2017 (2017-09-03)4.57
Queensland residents Joe and Rosanna Natoli bought a painting with the signature "Tom Roberts" at auction for £7,500. Expert opinion after the purchase, however, was that it was not by the important Australian impressionist of that name. Infrared examination revealed that the back had the title "Rejected", the name Tom Roberts and an address in London's Haymarket that was shown to be Roberts' address while studying at the Royal Academy of Arts. Roberts' sketchbooks showed initial studies which appeared to be preliminaries for the work under investigation. One of the leading authorities on Roberts' work, Mary Eagle of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, accepts it as genuine and Mould values it in excess of £200,000.[52]
223"Gauguin"Rachel Jardine10 September 2017 (2017-09-10)4.77

The team investigate two possible works by Paul Gauguin which have been brought to their attention. One appeared to be the first pencil sketch for Gauguin's Tahitian masterpiece When Will you Marry?. It had been bought by the viewer's art historian grandfather, but its authenticity was in doubt because it appeared to be a copy of a sketch in Gauguin's notebook. The team establish provenance that takes it back to Gauguin and show that it had been cut from the sketchbook sometime between 1916 and 1932. It is accepted as genuine by the Wildenstein Institute.

The second possible Gauguin is a still life depicting a bowl of fruit which had been sold as a genuine Gauguin several times and had appeared in a catalogue raisonné. However, the signature and dedication had been added after the original paint had dried and the signature did not appear genuine. The sale in which it had first appeared included a number of works now attributed to other artists. Connoisseurship also raises doubts about the style and Mould and Bruce conclude that it is not genuine.

Series 7 (2018)[edit]

The seventh series consists of five episodes and started on 12 August 2018.[53]

No. in
Title [11]Produced and directed byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [12][54]
231"Nicholson"Nicky Illis12 August 2018 (2018-08-12)4.21
A William Nicholson painting, of a glass jug, plates and two pears, was purchased by a collector from the estate of her aunt, Lillian Browse, a respected gallery owner and author of Nicholson's catalogue raisonné. The painting is not included, however, in the current catalogue raisonné compiled by expert Patricia Reed. A wealth of new scientific and documentary evidence was collected, including provenance to a previous wealthy London art-collector, x-ray evidence to show the board had originally borne a painting of freesias (missing from Nicolson's catalogue), and a comparison of the pigments in the paint with traces left in an original painting box owned by Nicolson's grandson. Reed does not change her opinion, however, stating that there is insufficient evidence to show that it was definitely by Nicholson,[53] and not someone working alongside him.[55]
242"Toulouse-Lautrec"Rachel Jardine19 August 2018 (2018-08-19)4.04
Two sketchbooks found in a garden shed in Saint-Émilion were given to a teenage boy, Alain, by his grandmother in 1965. Although she never revealed their origin, they were thought to be the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Alain waited 50 years before presenting the sketches to the committee responsible for authenticating the work of Toulouse-Lautrec. The committee did not accept them as authentic and concluded they were the work of another artist, René Princeteau. The sketchbooks contain images of women, horses, sailors, soldiers and dogs, not the subjects for which Toulouse-Lautrec is best known. Some of the pages are dated 1880, when Toulouse-Lautrec would have been just a teenager. The team travel to Albi in southern France, where Toulouse-Lautrec was born, and visit his family home, Chateau du Bosc, where he spent much of his youth. Compelling technical analysis is provided by print expert Harriet Stratis from Chicago who reports that the sketchbooks match those already known to be by Toulouse-Lautrec and that some sheets have tiny pin-pricks in each corner, which are a distinctive feature of the artist's hand. The committee does not provide a clear decision either way, but offers to re-examine the books at a later date.
253"Henry Moore"Lucy Swingler26 August 2018 (2018-08-26)4.22
The team investigate whether a small watercolour sketch could be by the British 20th-century sculptor Henry Moore, thought to be the only piece by a British artist in a private collection of around 1,500 works discovered in Germany in 2012.[56] Known as the Gurlitt Hoard, it is suspected to contain many objects of art looted by the Nazis, and the team is now asked by the Museum of Fine Art in Bern, Switzerland, to find out if the sketch is among these. Philip meets Moore's only child Mary, who says she can see her father's hand in the sketch. Forensic tests on the ink used in the sketch are inconclusive, but infrared analysis reveals more sketches on the back of the paper. Fiona discovers that in the early 1930s Hildebrand Gurlitt, the man who amassed the hoard, worked as a museum curator and exhibited works by Moore who, at the time, was less appreciated at home in Britain. Furthermore, Gurlitt later became one of only four dealers asked to sell off what the Nazis branded as degenerate art on the international market, purchasing some for himself. When the team find an accurate description of the sketch, they can link one of Gurlitt's purchases to what was exhibited years before, thus establishing an unbroken provenance. In the end the Henry Moore Foundation accepts the sketch as a genuine Moore.
264"A Double Whodunnit"Francis Welch2 September 2018 (2018-09-02)4.35

The team investigates two rare portraits of black British subjects from the 18th and 19th centuries, pictures which are highly unusual in their positive depiction of black sitters at a time when Britain was still heavily engaged in slavery.

The first case is a double portrait featuring Dido Belle, a former slave who became a member of the aristocratic Mansfield family, and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray. The painting is on display at Scone Palace in Scotland and was commissioned by the first Lord Mansfield, Dido Belle's guardian, sometime in the late 1770s or early 1780s. The abolitionist Mansfield, a judge, had ruled in the infamous case of the Zong massacre. The painting's original attribution, to Johan Zoffany, is considered wrong, but the identity of the actual artist is unclear. The second painting, even more unusual, is of two beautifully-dressed black girls holding a book in what appears to be a tropical landscape. Early clues suggest this could be a political painting, perhaps connected to the campaign to abolish slavery in British colonies. The signature was not legible.

In the end, forensic and other evidence revealed the first portrait to be by David Martin and the second by Emma Jones.
275"Giacometti"Robert Murphy9 September 2018 (2018-09-09)3.99

Answering the programme's call for works of art other than paintings, Philip and Fiona investigate what appears to be a plaster sculpture of Alberto Giacometti's early work Tête qui regarde (Gazing Head).[57][58] The object shows signs of extensive damage, and a CT scan reveals it has been stapled, stitched and glued back together several times. Without a clear trail of evidence linking the piece to the sculptor, the team discovers that one of the genuine Gazing Head plasters is considered lost by its original owner, the estate of British artist Sidney John Woods. When the piece and the collected evidence are presented to the Giacometti Foundation in Paris, the first response is that further studies needed to be made.

This episode was originally scheduled to be broadcast as part of series 6, but it was delayed pending the Giacometti Foundation's provisional findings.[58][49] The episode was rebroadcast at the end of series 8, on 22 August 2019. In a short added sequence, Bruce told the audience that subsequent investigation had found a Giacometti signature on the sculpture. Once the signature was found, the Giacometti Foundation authenticated the piece, although not in time for the original 2018 screening.[59]

Note: Series 7 was broadcast at the same time that BARB changed their ratings system, the ratings have been sourced as follows: Episodes 1-3 are 28 day figures from BARB's old system. Episode 4 are 28 day figures from the new system. Episode 5 are 7 day figures from the old system.

Series 8 (2019)[edit]

On 25 July 2019 the eighth series began broadcast.[60][61]

No. in
Title [11]Directed byProducerOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [54]
281"The Lost Gainsborough"Nicky IllisNicky Illis25 July 2019 (2019-07-25)N/A (<3.94)[a]
The team investigate an oil painting suggested to be the original for the print Wooded landscape with gipsies round a camp fire / The Gipsies, by Thomas Gainsborough. The painting roughly matches the print (once reversed), but it is not an exact mirror image. The painting has been in the owner's family since the 1920s and had originally been attributed to Gainsborough. It had subsequently been down-graded to Barker of Bath and later even further, to a follower of Barker. Mould himself had helped attribute another painting as the lost landscape twenty years ago; a work that subsequently sold as an authentic Gainsborough at auction, so if the team succeed here his earlier work would be undone. Looking at the previously attributed provenance, a label on the back of the frame of the examined work confirmed it as once owned by Henry Graves, and had been exhibited and had also been sold at auction as an original Gainsborough. Infrared and x-ray imaging reveal that the work has been painted on top of a much earlier portrait of a woman; it is suggested that Gainsborough, who was in financial difficulties at that time, had re-used the canvas of a different artist, instead of buying a new one. While this practice was previously unknown for Gainsborough, a recent find confirmed that he had indeed re-used an old canvas for a work confirmed as his. Microscopic analysis of the paint used does not find any modern pigments that would have revealed it as a modern fake. In the end, expert appraisal of the painting technique, by Gainsborough expert Hugh Belsey, established that the work is by Barker of Bath after all, and not Gainsborough. It is later revealed that the portrait hidden beneath the landscape was almost certainly by Michael Dahl (1659–1743), and ironically worth more than the Barker landscape.
292"Cosway or Lawrence?"Lucy SwinglerLucy Swingler1 August 2019 (2019-08-01)N/A (<3.56)[a]
The team investigate a portrait of Peniston Lamb II, owned by the Cecil family, distant relatives of Peniston himself. Philip Mould had chanced upon the work at the family's home in London, and had immediately suspected it was by Thomas Lawrence. Its owners, however, had always believed it was by Maria Cosway. The portrait of Lamb had been shown in an exhibition of Cosway's works in 1895, and had been attributed to her in the following year, in the book Portraits at Panshanger by Victorian art historian Mary Boyle closed access. The team travel to Chatsworth House to see a painting by Cosway of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, her leading patron. Labels on the back of the painting suggest it had once been owned by Viscountess Jocelyn and by the Earl of Arran. After some research, and revealing that the family inheritance had been passed through the female line for three generations in a row (making research that much more difficult), Fiona finally unearths a family letter. Written by Emily, Peniston's sister, it attributed at least one portrait of him to Lawrence, from when the work hung at Melbourne Hall. Meanwhile, Philip oversees the technical analysis. The physical condition of the work is excellent. Lawrence is known for working in a way that preserves his paintings. In sharp contrast, the paint of surviving Cosway works is badly cracked. Technical analysis further suggests similarities in brush technique to other portraits by Lawrence. With all these indicators pointing to Lawrence, and at least a tenuous paper trail linking the family to Lawrence, the team decides to submit the work to the established Lawrence authorities, Professor Brian Allen and Dr Peter Funnell. On stylistic grounds, the work is accepted as being by Lawrence, raising its value from perhaps £8,000 to over half a million pounds, in Philip's estimation.
303"De Chirico"Guy ArthurChristopher Boreham8 August 2019 (2019-08-08)N/A (<3.84)[a]

Fiona and Philip visit a local art dealer who had bought an unusual still life for £1 thirty years ago. He explained a friend had suggested it might be by the Italian surrealist Giorgio de Chirico, and that he had submitted it at the time to the de Chirico foundation in Rome but had had it rejected. Still, the team was persuaded to take another look. Its muted colours suggested it was not painted using oil. A lone walnut had been one reason the foundation rejected the work, but Fiona met with an expert based in Rome who considered its presence very de Chirico. She also unearths the original tempera recipes known to be used by the artist. Back in London, Philip uses technical analysis to confirm the presence of linseed oil and honey in the paint, highly specific to de Chirico. Meanwhile Fiona explains to the owner their team researched every local lead in the hopes of establishing a provenance trail back from the curio shop where the painting was purchased. However, the only link they found was a British singer who was a friend of de Chirico in the 1950s. As a first for the programme, radio carbon analysis (Carbon-14 dating) that took advantage of the sharp increase in radiocarbon from atmospheric nuclear testing was used to establish that the work was painted on a wooden panel from a tree felled before 1950, thus not disproving the possibility that the singer might have sold off paintings given to her by de Chirico. While this opened up a potential path from Italy to Britain, there was no evidence.

With their findings, the team resubmitted the work to the de Chirico foundation. However, the work was not authenticated, the foundation instead suggesting it is an imitation carried out as an exercise, prompting Mould to speculate it must have been painted by someone close to de Chirico.
314"A Venetian View"Rachel JardineRachel Jardine15 August 2019 (2019-08-15)N/A (<3.70)[a]
Nick Hopkinson, publisher of International Boat Industry magazine, believed his great grandparents had bought a view of Venice on a trip to Italy in the 1880s. The painting had been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1908 and had two "labels" attached to the frame - one attributing it to Jacopo Marieschi, the other attributing it to Francesco Guardi. First off, they established that while Jacopo is now known not to have painted any Venetian views, his father, Michele Marieschi had, and in prolific numbers. At the Royal Academy, the team learned that the Guardi label wasn't official, merely something owners fill in when submitting their works. Thus, all this label tells us is that the owner, Nick's great grandfather Meyer Spielman, believed or wanted to believe the painting was by Guardi. The second label was cut-out from the catalogue entry that had been stuck to the frame, which did suggest the Academy considered it a Marieschi. Then Fiona found an auction catalogue entry that indicated that the work had been sold by Christie's in London in the early 20th century, confirmed by the matching stock number stamped on the frame. Spielman had purchased it as a Marieschi from the estate of a Major Gubbins,[62] making Nick uncomfortable thinking about how his great grandfather then presented it to the Royal Academy as a Guardi. Finally, there was a red seal on the stretcher that the team barely could make out as saying "Firenze". When they travelled to Italy, they found out this indicated the work had been the subject of a specific magistrate's court in Florence before 1808, when Florence was annexed to Napoleonic France. Technical analysis showed that the paints used were all available in the 18th century, however the treatment of the painting's ground layer was inconsistent with Venetian practice and the weave of the canvas suggested it originated in London. The work was examined by Charles Beddington, Britain's foremost authority on Marieschi, who gave the opinion that it was by neither by Guardi or Marieschi, but by an English artist in the 19th century and that the seal had been added to give it a spurious provenance. Philip discussed the difference in valuation: while a work by Marieschi could sell for half a million pounds and a genuine Guardi for £10million, he put a price of £20,000 on Nick's painting.

Series 9 (2021)[edit]

The Coronavirus pandemic disrupted the production schedule, but in September 2020 Philip Mould announced that pre-production of the ninth series had started.[63] The ninth series, comprising four episodes, began on 26 July 2021.[64]

No. in
Title [11]Produced and directed byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [54]
321"A Sculpture in the Brambles"Nicky Illis28 July 2021 (2021-07-28)N/A (<3.41)[a]
Bruce and Mould travel to Mergate Hall, at Mulbarton near Norwich in Norfolk, to investigate a sculpture belonging to retired dairy farmer Neil Betts and his wife Barbara, which has been used as a doorstop and a garden water feature, and which they believe may have been created by Henry Moore.[65] The review panel of the Henry Moore Foundation, in Perry Green, Hertfordshire, determine the work is not by Moore, based in part on the revelation it is made out of aluminum, a material not used by Moore. It is by artist and sculptor Betty Jewson and so is worth just a few thousand pounds, rather than up to £1 million.[66]
332"Gerome"Guy Arthur4 August 2021 (2021-08-04)N/A (<3.47)[a]
The team investigate a 1858 painting titled Arab at Prayer by 19th-century French orientalist Jean-Léon Gérôme. The painting having been downgraded by an authority on the artist, following that authority's death, the owner approaches the programme to have the painting re-attributed. Bruce and Mould gather evidence from experts,[67] and are eventually successful in obtaining re-attribution.
343"Landseer"Nicky Illis11 August 2021 (2021-08-11)N/A (<3.48)[a]
The team examine a 1846 painting which may be Time of War by Sir Edwin Landseer, but which had been described as "lost" or "destroyed" by the Tate Gallery following the 1928 Thames flood. Several pictures so described were later found and restored. A Landseer authority determines this is a copy, but of better quality than usual for a copy.
354"A King's Last Supper"Claire Lewis18 August 2021 (2021-08-18)2.90 [68]
The team visit sheep farmer Huw Lewis in Anglesey to evaluate a painting he bought on eBay for £50, which the team establish is a previously missing sketch by American painter Benjamin West (1738–1820), one of two, for his large 1786 painting The Last Supper, commissioned by King George III. Lewis agrees to have his painting restored by Rupert Featherstone, at the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge, and Martin Postle of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art has no qualms in confirming an attribution to West.

Series 10 (2022)[edit]

No. in
Title [11]Produced and directed byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [69]
361"Ben Nicholson"Nicky Illis23 August 2022 (2022-08-23)2.76
Fiona Bruce and Ben Mould attempt to uncover the history of an unusual painting on plaster in the former home of amateur sculptor Fred Murray, brother of noted British ceramicist William Staite Murray. The fragile work is under threat from building work, but is reputed to be the work of Ben Nicholson and, if genuine, could be worth up to £200,000. Although it is soon established that Fred Murray was an early patron of the artist, the painting contains some puzzling elements and it is unknown whether Nicholson ever stayed at the property. Investigations reveal that this was indeed the case and explain, at least in part, the presence of the atypical stylistic features. Philip Mould suggests, however, that these could indicate a collaboration between Nicholson and Murray, which is what the experts decide when they assess the evidence gathered. Mould then revises his estimate of painting's value to be between £50,000 and £100,000. Although professional removal of the painting would be costly and not without risk, its owners decide to go ahead with this and the operation proves to be a success (as shown).[70]
372"Modigliani"Christopher Boreham30 August 2022 (2022-08-30)2.72
383"Sisley"Guy Arthur6 September 2022 (2022-09-06)N/A
394"Flemish Old Master"Matt Smith13 September 2022 (2022-09-13)TBD


Describing the outcome of the first episode of series one as a "scandal", Sam Wollaston writing for The Guardian found the programme "incredibly interesting" and praised it "for being about just one case in which you can become totally involved, instead of flitting between three, which is what so many documentaries seem to do".[71] In The Daily Telegraph, Ceri Radford was described as being "flabbergasted" at the result of the first episode, but concluded her review by saying: "This may have been a disappointing finale, but it at least confirmed that this aesthetically pleasing, quietly enjoyable new series isn't afraid to thwart expectations."[14] Tom Sutcliffe in The Independent had a mixed view as a result of the presentation of the facts, saying: "It was full of cliffhanger tension and thrilling moments of discovery. But I couldn't entirely shift the suspicion that some of it was just a little too good to be true."[72]

The first programme of the third series, shown in the UK on 19 January 2014, had 4.8 million viewers (a 21.8% audience share)[73] while the first programme of the fourth series attracted 4.85m (24.5%).[74] The record audience for the series was on 12 July 2015 with a peak attendance of 5.8 million viewers (episode 4.2 "Renoir").[75]

Reviewing an episode of the seventh series, Michael Hogan of The Daily Telegraph wrote: "Arts programming is an increasingly endangered beast on prime time television. This absorbing and enjoyable series flies the flag in quietly thrilling fashion."[76]

Benji Wilson, writing for The Daily Telegraph, described the programme, then in its ninth series, as "the art world's answer to Line of Duty".[77]

International broadcasts[edit]

The programme had its North American premiere on Canada's TVOntario in 2011.[78] It has also aired on PBS in the United States,[79] and Series 4 has been available on Netflix (as Season 1) since December 2018.[80] The programme airs on ABC in Australia.[81]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Not reported in the weekly top 15 programmes for four-screen viewer ratings.


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External links[edit]