Earlier this month, I popped in to see a client to discuss antiques and pictures for our December auction, when he said did I want to see something a little different. He took me into his office and there leaning up against a cabinet and next to the fire extinguisher was an early 20th century oil of water lilies. My brain immediately screamed Claude Monet (1840-1926) the French impressionist. The style was right, and trying desperately to not look at the signature, and instead appraise the picture like I would any object viewed for the first time, I viewed it with a critical eye.
Did the whole work looked balanced, was it executed with a confident hand, was the canvas of sufficient age, I looked at the back, and then allowed myself to look at the signature of the bottom left Claude Monet. The next two mins was a running conversation in my head, a Monet, no can’t be, yes it is, no, it might be, no it can’t be can it!!!!!!
The following conversation with the owner was surprisingly relaxed as we chatted about his hopes and the pictures provenance. This is effectively the history of a picture, who has owned it, has it been exhibited at galleries, are there any gaps in the pictures history, how did it come to be in Birmingham. All of this can be critical in authenticating a picture and greatly influence its value. Gaps in a pictures history can be a concern especially for a picture of this magnitude.
Claude Monet is famous for these images of water Lilies (or Nymphéas). Monet created approximately 250 oil paintings in this series. The paintings depict Monet’s flower garden at Giverny and were the main focus of his artistic work during the last thirty years of his life.
To say they are valuable is an understamenet, with the major London auction houses selling them for millions. One of Monet’s water lily painting sold for £18.5 million at a Sotheby’s and Christies sold an example entitled Le bassin aux nymphéas, for almost £41 million at Christie’s in 2010.
Before the picture I was looking at could be considered a genuine Claude Monet, it will need extensive research and will need to be sent to Paris and inspected by the experts from The Wildenstein Institute who are world authority. Initially professional images will need to be sent and if initially appraisal is positive, the picture will couriered to the Institute.
Based on my recommendation, the owner has allowed me to work with one of the London auction house, and with their help we will start the journey to discover if it’s a lost masterpiece worth millions or fake and worth just a few hundred pounds.