CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: A few bob or a few million? The puzzle of the lost ‘Henry Moore’
Fake Or Fortune?
The Walk That Made Me
What a better world it would be if we were all as nice as Fiona Bruce. She wants everything inspected on Fake Or Fortune? (BBC1) to be genuine and priceless.
Most of us — and in this I certainly include my own miserly soul — cannot repress a pang of resentment when some family heirloom turns out to be worth more than a medium-sized yacht.
It’s one thing to have a Lowry or a Gauguin that clever great-uncle Timmy bought for a few shillings before the war. It’s quite another to have lived with it for decades and never have had it valued.
As Fiona and her art dealer chum Philip Mould returned with a new series, they met a charming couple called Neil and Barbara in Norwich, who thought their garden ornament might just be a lost sculpture by Henry Moore.
What a better world it would be if we were all as nice as Fiona Bruce (pictured with Philip Mould). She wants everything on Fake Or Fortune? (BBC1) to be genuine and priceless
If it was authentic, Philip remarked, it could be worth a million quid . . . or 20,000 times more than its scrap value of £50.
Neil and Barbara were thrilled. I tried to be thrilled for them and fell short by some margin.
To the heathen eye, this masterpiece looked like a lump of molten metal from an electricity pylon struck by lightning.
Neil found it hidden under brambles in the garden of an elderly neighbour who had died and left them her property.
The neighbour, Betty Jewson, had been a sculptor herself, though she was better known for more conventional horses and hugging couples.
For years, Neil and Barbara used their find as a doorstop. You can’t blame them. A visual summary of Moore’s career suggested that he used bronze the way a toddler mistreats Plasticine.
Fiona met a charming couple called Neil and Barbara in Norwich, who thought their garden ornament (pictured) might just be a lost sculpture by Henry Moore
After a robot camera created 3D images of the ex-doorstop, Fiona took the pictures to Betty’s son Ed.
His reaction was a vindication of every viewer who couldn’t share the saintly Fiona’s optimism about this sculpture. ‘Bother,’ he said.
After Betty died, he had conducted a search for stray artworks. ‘I thought I’d cleared them all up but obviously I missed that one. It’ll teach me!’ (If you want to know whether it really is a Henry Moore, you’ll have to catch up on iPlayer. I won’t spoil it!)
This episode proved a prime example of what Fake Or Fortune? does best, which is to encourage us to take an interest in an artist whose work might never have appealed. You still want to know whether it’s worth a million.
But the show does also shine a forensic light on the less generous side of our natures.
Chris Packham was shining a light into his own darker recesses as he took a ten-mile stroll along the banks of the river Itchen in Hampshire, from his home to Winchester Cathedral.
The Walk That Made Me (BBC2) began as a jaunt, with Chris filming himself. He isn’t a natural with a selfie stick. Chin up like a promenading colonel, he seemed to be in danger of falling over backwards.
The Walk That Made Me (BBC2) began as a jaunt, with Chris Packham (pictured) filming himself. He isn’t a natural with a selfie stick
But as he relaxed, he also slipped into melancholy. He became tearful for the dogs he had lost during his life, then began musing about where he wanted his ashes scattered.
Then he plunged into the loneliness and misery of his teenage years, and revealed that he had sometimes thought of taking his own life.
He wanted to discuss this, he said, in the hope it would give comfort to young people struggling with depression.
I hope it does, too — though as a rule, the reminiscences of men aged 60 can’t ever seem relevant to teenagers, who think even a 30-year-old is a walking antique.
For the rest of us, this walk wasn’t quite what we were expecting.