'Fake' painting turns out to be the real McCoy

Highest value painting in Antiques Roadshow history

A painting believed by its owner to be a fake has been valued at an incredible £250,000 by Antiques Roadshow expert Rupert Maas.

When the owner, who does not wish to be named, took his painting along to the Greenwich Roadshow last year, he believed it to be a fake of a William Orpen painting, The Spy, which hangs in the Imperial War Museum in London.

But after noticing the signature ‘Nepro Mailliw’ (Orpen’s name backwards) inscribed on the reverse, expert Rupert Maas deemed it to be a genuine copy by Orpen himself.

The owner, who inherited the painting from his uncle, had no idea such an expensive piece of art had been residing in his home all these years. ‘He was rocked. He said it was worth more than his house!’ said Rupert.

Painted in France during Orpen’s time as a World War One official artist, The Spy depicts Orpen’s mistress Yvonne Aubicque. The title of the painting aroused the suspicions of the censor, Lietenant Colonel Lee and Orpen was summoned to London to explain himself.

He claimed the woman was a spy who was to be shot by the French and he had been allowed to paint her. However Orpen was forced to come clean and admit the woman was his lover.

He faced a court martial for painting a private subject but was saved when his friend Lord Beaverbrook stepped in.

To thank him, Orpen painted the copy which was given the title The Refugee and was bought soon after the second world war by the current owner’s uncle. In all its 32 year history, the Antiques Roadshow has never had such an expensive painting feature on the programme.

Most astonishing finds from the last series
A plate bearing the arms of 25 Prussian royal households was estimated to be worth £100,000 when it was taken to Aberglasney in Wales, making it the most valuable plate to ever feature on the Roadshow.
In Bath, a 1770 Wedgwood teapot bought for just £10 at a car boot sale was given an estimated value of £1,500-£2,500.
A Roadshow visitor who bought a collection of 120 posters in the 1970s when he was 11 years old had a shock when just 10 of them were valued at £30,000 at Stanway House.

Markets always were good for a bargain as one Morwellham Quay resident found when her diamond brooch, bought at a market stall for £2, was valued at £3,000.
A Roadshow visitor in Bath was pleasantly surprised when they were told the John Constable landscape bought for £100 in 1974 is now worth £10,000-£20,000.
In Guernsey, a mid 18th-century dresser was valued by John Bly at £4,000-£8,000 despite having two mysterious holes in the top that were later found to be bullet holes.
A Michael Jackson fan who won the star’s signature fedora hat in a competition in 1991 was speechless when, at the Somerleyton Roadshow, she was told it is now worth at least £25,000.
At Stanway House, the owner of a Ruskin vase that was bought for less than £1 couldn’t believe his luck when he heard it could now be worth £3,000.
A tiny 15th-century silver teaspoon discovered in a trench before the construction of a multi-storey car park was valued at £8,000-£10,000 at the Leeds Roadshow.
An early dynamo machine thrown out by a University Department was brought along to Bletchley, where it was valued at a whopping £8,000 - £10,000.

Tune in to the final episode of the Antiques Roadshow, featuring all the highlights from the latest series, on BBC 1 at 8pm on Sunday.

By Liz Gage

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