A ‘Monet’ painting has gone up for sale on James Stunt’s website that he says is genuine but a television art expert has called it a fake.
Le Village de la Roche-Blond au Soleil Couchant, purportedly painted by Monet in 1889 has a current bid of £4,735,000 on the website of James Stunt who is the ex-husband of Formula 1 heiress Petra Ecclestone.
Back in November, The Mail on Sunday revealed that television art expert Ian Towning, who owns the prestigious Bourbon Hanby Arcade in Chelsea, West London, had inspected a painting of the same name, Le Village de la Roche-Blond au Soleil Couchant, at Stunt’s Belgravia flat on October 29.
Mr Towning claims that he and a valuation expert became suspicious after noticing the frame was not original and that areas of the painting, including the sky and signature, did not appear to conform to Monet’s style.
Bullion dealer Stunt made excuses about the frame and ‘waffled on about what paperwork he had’, Mr Towning recalled at the time
The art and antiques dealer, who has appeared on ITV’s Dickinson’s Real Deal and Channel 4’s Posh Pawn, says it was immediately apparent the work was not authentic.
However, a spokesperson for James Stunt, Jonathan Nelson, told MailOnline that Mr Stunt ‘stands by the authenticity of this painting and its provenance.’
Mr Towning said he was originally approached by a broker, a middleman for Stunt, and led to believe the painting was on offer for about £20 million before he was taken in a 4×4, along with a property expert to Stunt’s flat.
They were met by a bodyguard and led into an open-plan living room where the alleged Monet hung on a wall. They examined the work in detail and took it off the wall to look for auction stamps on the reverse which could help verify its provenance.
‘On the left-hand side of the painting there was an area that didn’t look like the work of Monet. And on the top right there was an area that made me suspicious. The sky just didn’t click – it didn’t look quite right. And the signature wasn’t right,’ Towning said.
‘But the canvas confirmed my feelings that the painting was a complete fake. I was also looking at all the stamps that were from the various auction houses the painting had apparently been through, and I was not convinced by them.’
The frame, which bore the title and year of the painting – Le Village de la Roche-Blond au Soleil Couchant, 1889 – was also not the original.
Mr Towning said Stunt arrived 90 minutes later in a grey tracksuit. Responding to their questions, Stunt claimed the frame had been so dilapidated that he’d got rid of it.
‘No art collector would ever do that,’ Mr Towning says. ‘You’d always restore the original frame unless it was completely beyond restoration. I’m surprised anyone with a real Monet would change the frame, as it could help prove its authenticity, age and provenance.’
No price was discussed at the meeting and Mr Towning said he needed to discuss the painting with his valuer carefully.
The valuer double-checked images of the real painting that had previously been taken, which Mr Towning said only confirmed the pair’s suspicions.
‘It’s a perfectly nicely executed painting – it’s attractive. But it’s not a Monet,’ mr Towning said.
The Mail on Sunday also reported that another ‘Monet’ belonging to Stunt was officially rejected by the world’s top authority on the painter, the Wildenstein Institute.
The current description on Mr Stunt’s website reads as follows:
‘The present work is one of approximately twenty compositions Monet painted while staying at Fresselines between March and May, 1889, depicting views in the region of the river known as the Grande Creuse. Many of those paintings were executed from a high vantage point looking down upon the Valley of the Creuse and are characterized by deep, sonorous colors.
La Roche-Blond overlooks the left bank of the Grande Creuse and the Fresselines bank is visible in the foreground of the present work. A preliminary drawing for both the present work another related view of the village at dusk in which Monet worked out the snake-like bend of the river is in the collection of the Musée Marmottan.’
The end of the auction is listed as December 20, 2019.
In a blistering Instagram post at the end of November, 30-year-old mother-of-three, Petra Ecclestone hit out at her ex.
‘The man is not a billionaire and never was. Naively, I funded his life for our entire marriage and paid for his cars, his watches, his art (the few real ones) even his failed company,’ she posted.
The Mail on Sunday also revealed that Stunt lent at least three fake paintings, a ‘Monet’, a ‘Dali’ and a ‘Picasso’, to the Prince of Wales’s charity, Dumfries House in Scotland, despite Stunt’s continued denials, Ms Ecclestone claims she had met the forger who created the replica artworks and declares herself ‘baffled’ by her husband’s audacious attempt to pass them off as real.