Paintings that hung at the headquarters of the Prince Charles’s charitable foundation and were valued at roughly $134.5 million have been outed as apparent forgeries—by the forger himself. The three paintings were purported to have been by Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet, and had been part of a 10-year loan to Dumfries House from former billionaire James Stunt. A Vanity Fair report suggested Stunt offered the loan because time spent hanging in a Royal home could dramatically increase an artwork’s secondary market value. The paintings, however, were allegedly executed by U.S. art forger Tony Tetro.
The most notable was a supposed Monet water lily painting, valued at some £50 million ($55.8 million). “I was very proud of that [painting],” Tetro said in a lengthy interview with The Daily Mail. “It was a good Monet.” Tetro has been arrested in the past but now makes a legal living painting forgeries for private use by clients; it’s when these paintings enter the secondary market as originals that laws are broken. (“Under no circumstance are the works of art to be presented as the work of masters or other artists,” reads the forger’s website beneath the ordering form.)
Tetro remarked in the interview that his clientele commission the works to show off, but that the paintings would never pass the scrutiny of a historian trying to authenticate them. Of his commission with Stunt, Tetro said:
[Stunt] said it had to look real. I aged all his pictures artificially—that costs extra. If people are looking and they pick them up and they see a bright white shiny canvas and new stretcher bars then they know [it's a reproduction]—and he didn't want people to know. They would be able to tell in a second the pictures weren't real, they'd laugh at them. James's ambition was to hang them on his wall and impress his friends.
When asked to age pictures artificially, Tetro uses such techniques as splashing his canvases with coffee and bleach, and soaking his copper tacks in vinegar before stretching his canvas with them. Tetro reportedly felt obliged to speak out as the artist behind the works after Stunt pledged he would sell the Monet to repay creditors. All three of the disputed paintings have been removed from public view.
Further Reading: How Forgers and Grifters Have Conned the Art World for Generations