How a Wild $136 Million Art Fraud Connects to Prince Charles
Without knowing it, the royal was showcasing elaborate counterfeits.
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What does Britain's National Gallery, the Tate Modern and Dumfries House all have in common? Why, priceless original works of art by the great mast-- oh, wait, strike that last one.
Dumfries House, a home, garden and estate in Scotland with roots back to 1635, is currently in the purview of The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund. Prince Charles himself pushed for his foundation to take ownership of the facility in 2007. It is rented out for special events and maintains public programs with perhaps unintentionally sinister sounding names like "Valentin's Education Farm."
Quite unexpectedly, this picturesque Palladian-style county home has found itself dead center of a $136 million art hoax. As reported by Bloomberg, three paintings amid the Dutch masters, Chippendale chairs and antique clocks are alleged to be works by a convicted American art forger Tony Tetro. They had been mistaken for works by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.
The fakes made their way to Prince Charles' charity HQ in a manner befitting any art forgery, from a group of Agatha Christie characters. The work was part of a 10 year loan from 37 year-old ex-billionaire James Stunt, the former husband of Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone. A stint in a Royal domicile could potentially increase the auction price of any artwork. A pledge to sell the “$50 million Monet” in an effort to repay creditors brought Tetro out of the woodwork to boast about his work.
Tetro's comments as quoted in the Daily Mail make clear that Stunt was well aware that what he was commissioning was fraud. They were later authenticated by the prestigious Wildenstein Institute in Paris and given sky high insurance valuations. Whether the Prince's Foundation had any awareness remains to be seen.
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