Million-dollar painting deemed almost worthless

One guest on BBC's Antiques Roadshow was left deflated on the show after they learnt a portrait thought to be an original Lely painting was almost worth nothing. 

The visitor appeared on the show with one of the experts, to find out the true value of the artefact that had been passed down through his family. 

He revealed the artwork was purchased in an auction in the 1850s, before it was placed in the home of the current owner - having been passed down through the family.

The piece was believed to have been painted by the popular artist Sir Peter Lely, who was around in the 1600s.

However the expert had to break the news that the piece was not an original and most likely a copy painted in the 19th century - two centuries after Lely's paintings.

Painting -2

It featured all the parts of a painting by this artist, even documented as one of his works in an auction catalogue from the time it was purchased.

The show expert says it was obviously not original - but if it had been; it would be worth around a million dollars. 

However, due to the artwork likely being a dupe, he said the it’s value dropped down dramatically to almost nothing. 

He explained: "The question is, is it by Lely? The catalogue of 1845 you've just shown me says Lely doesn't it, quite clearly. But in those days they had somewhat a looser interpretation of the trade description act, if it indeed ever existed.

"The thing about Lely, the great portrait painter that he was, is that when he died he left hundreds of unfinished portraits and versions of portraits already done.

"His students and studio assistants finished them really quickly, and sold them all so that his entire estate including his collection of old masters made something like £30,00 in the 17th century, which was a massive amount of money. He was so popular.

"It effectively flooded the market with versions of his pictures done by lesser hands, the question is, is it one of those?"

The expert went on to reveal what the portrait could really be worth. 

"The secret here is not to look too closely I’m afraid, you can tell I’m softening you up for a bit of a blow,” he said. 

"Sorry but I think, I’m afraid, this is a shadow of a dream. It's not even by a studio assistant. I think it's a much later copy.

"Something about the reduced scale, of course it should be massive, makes it look more domestic. Something about the frankly Victorian idea of a 17th century frame, it's been copied.

"And the colours are slightly gaudier than you’d expect, a little bit of clunkiness in the drawing of the hand, and then put on top of that this brown finish which is quite deliberately antiquing it, I think what we're looking at is a 19th century copy."

The expert went on to say despite the guest’s disappointments that if it was an “original Lely, it would be pretty well around a million pounds.” 

"But as it is, it's probably worth around I don't know, £600. I'm sorry to let you down."

This article originally appeared on Over60.