A painting by a 19th-century French artist is expected to fetch up to £ 120,000 when it is auctioned in London – two decades after being bought for £ 3,800 in New York.
The work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, entitled “En Prière”, was authenticated following an investigation by the BBC’s Fake or Fortune team broadcast during the summer.
It was purchased by Los Angeles artist Jon Swihart in 1999 at a New York auction for $ 6,325 (then valued at around £ 3,800), cataloged as “Cercle by Jean-Léon Gérôme ”.
Mr Swihart was sure the painting could be a work of the actual artist – and enlisted the help of presenter Fiona Bruce and art dealer Philip Mold to help confirm it.
During the August 4 program, Mold pointed out to Mr Swihart that his painting would only have been worth around £ 1,000 if it had not actually been by the artist.
Art historian Emily Weeks, a recognized specialist in Gérôme’s works, critically reviewed the exhibition and was able to authenticate the work.
The work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, entitled ‘En Prière’, has been authenticated by Faux or Fortune
Fiona Bruce, presenter of Fake of Fortune and Philip Mold, art dealer, with “At Prayer” in the middle
And this although it was considered as a collaborative work in the 1980s by Gerald Ackerman, art historian and great expert of Gérôme who died in 2016 at the age of 87.
During the investigation for the BBC show, Bruce visited Sotheby’s in London to speak with Claude Pieing, senior specialist in orientalist art.
The painting was completed shortly after Gerome’s first trip to Egypt in 1856, and gives a depiction of Muslim prayer and an overview of the artist’s working methods.
A key piece of evidence was a pencil sketch of Gerome held by the Cooper Art Gallery in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, of a man in a robe and turban who is kneeling.
Another was the location of the pulpit or minbar which has been identified as that of Qaytbay in the northern cemetery of Cairo, where Gerome is said to have visited.
The painting was purchased by Los Angeles artist Jon Swihart, pictured with his wife Kim, in 1999
A key piece of evidence was a pencil sketch of Gerome held by the Cooper Art Gallery in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, of a clothed, turbaned man who is kneeling
Experts also noted the position of the devotee praying away from the minbar, and therefore from Mecca, rather than towards it – something Gerome was known for.
Gerome would have done this because he wanted to show people the intensity of the worshiper’s expression while including the richly carved pulpit.
Now, after the result, Sotheby’s will offer the painting – painted in 1858 – as a highlight of “The Orientalist Sale” and it is open for auction from October 20.
The painting is estimated between £ 80,000 and £ 120,000 and now joins the ranks of the first paintings by Gérôme, born in May 1824 and died in January 1904.
Mr Piening said: “I love the immediacy of this painting, executed shortly after Gerome’s first trip to Egypt in 1856 and his impressions of his travels were still fresh in his mind – the viewer feels truly transported. in another place and another culture.
Another key piece of evidence was the location of the pulpit or minbar which has been identified as that of Qaytbay in the northern cemetery of Cairo, where Gerome is said to have visited.
The At Prayer model can be found in an 1857 work by Gérôme in the same sale, titled Prayer in the House of the Arnaut Chief (pictured), which is estimated to be up to £ 150,000.
“It’s a small job, but one that has a huge impact – seeing the figure from the front really conveys the deep communion between the worshiper and God.
“The fact that this work has been rightly incorporated into Gérôme’s work testifies to its exceptional quality.
The At Prayer model can be found in an 1857 work by Gérôme in the same sale, titled Prayer in the House of the Arnaut Chief, with an estimate of up to £ 150,000.
In 2019, Sotheby’s set the artist’s auction record with Riders Crossing the Desert, which sold for £ 2.6million, or £ 3.1million, including the buyer’s premium.
At Prayer will be offered as part of The Orientalist Sale at Sotheby’s in London which starts October 20 and ends October 26