An art dealer and TV presenter has spoken of his “utter and raw delight” on discovering a painting once deemed a fake was, in fact, worth £2m.
Philip Mould was always convinced the painting was an original by British artist John Constable, but unable to produce proof, he sold it for £35,000.
Now, 17 years later, he has been vindicated.
Research by the BBC’s Fake or Fortune? programme found it is an early version of Constable’s famous Hay Wain.
The presenter – more used to telling other people they had missed out on fortunes – had his own dealings put under the spotlight in Sunday’s episode of the art detective show.
Mr Mould told Radio 5 live he believed he had got hold of an original, when he paid £10,000 for the picture as a young dealer.
“I tried to prove it – but couldn’t,” he said of the depiction of Willy Lott’s Cottage on the River Stour.
So he sold it on, only to buy it back a few years later and try again to prove its authenticity.
But still unable to, he sold it to Gloucestershire businessman Henry Reid in 2000.
He paid £35,000, having “believed [Mould’s] conviction” he would one day be able to prove its true worth.
“I promised the person I sold it to that one day I would return and try and prove it and wonderfully, we were able to do it,” Mr Mould said.
“We have proved that a painting that I bought for a few thousand pounds originally, hoping it was a work by one of the greatest landscape painters who ever lived, is now finally proved to be so. I am so thrilled.”
Earlier this year, 1821 painting The Hay Wain was voted one of the nation’s favourite art works.
The trail led Fake or Fortune? co-presenter Fiona Bruce to experts in Los Angeles.
Mr Mould said the programme team examined the layers of paint and the work’s provenance.
“Art history has moved on so magnificently – and technology – in the last 17 years. We can do things and find things out that were not possible when I was a youngster,” he said.
“We were able to trace it back through various owners… right back pretty well to the brush of Constable himself. We found it in a sale sold by his son after his death which was a real slam dunker.”
Presented with all the evidence, two specialists finally gave it “the thumbs up”.
Despite missing out a on a multi-million pound windfall, the dealer is not bitter.
“I’m enormously happy for him,” he conceded.
“It’s also wonderful for Constable himself. I had visions of him saying why is my picture being deemed a fake?”
Watch Series 6 of Fake or Fortune? on the BBC iPlayer.