News-Antique.com - Oct 18,2010 - Review of Philip Mould’s ‘Art Detective’ – artmarketblog.com
Considering that I have just finished my series of posts on Portraits as Art Market Currency, I think it is rather fitting that I post a review of a book about the exploits of a British portrait dealer – a book that I absolutely loved reading and want to encourage everyone else to read. Seeking out works of art that he suspects have hidden secrets has taken world renowned portrait expert and art world super sleuth Philip Mould OBE all over the world on exciting journeys of discovery and enlightenment. His latest book titled ‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ is a collection of case histories that provide a fascinating insight into the sleuthing escapades of the art world’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. From the identification of a long lost Winslow Homer recovered from a rubbish dump, to the discovery of an amazing early work by Gainsborough that was misattributed to a “follower of Jacob van Ruisdael”, Mould’s true tales of art world investigation introduce the reader to a world of kookie characters and perturbing mysteries.
If you are a fan of the UK Antiques Roadshow then you have probably seen Mould giving valuations to hopeful visitors and would be aware of his position as a valuer of fine art. Die hard Antiques Roadshow fans will also know that Mould gave the first one million pound valuation for a design model of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North sculpture which appeared on the 16 November 2008 episode. What you perhaps didn’t know about Mould is that he has made his mark on art history by breathing new life into damaged or misidentified portraits. In the hands of Mould and his team, paintings that once languished in obscurity are given the artistic and historical recognition they deserve.
Part memoir and part thriller, ‘The Art Detective’ has all the elements of a Le Carre spy tale – drama, suspense and intrigue – combined with rare glimpses into the usually secretive world of those involved in the detection of fine art fakes, forgeries and misattributions. As well as being extremely entertaining, Mould also provides fascinating and educational glimpses into the social and cultural histories that are an integral part of the objects that he deals with. The latest foray into the Mould files is a thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking read that will not only delight anyone interested in fine art, but also anyone who enjoys a good spy thriller.
When I met Philip Mould for the first time I was really impressed with how passionate he was about what he does – a characteristic that really shines through in his writing. Many of the art books that I have read, and history books as well for that matter, are filled with pretentious ramblings that give the impression that the author is just trying to prove how well educated they are, but with ‘The Art Detective’ one gets