Philip Mould takes a wonderfully interesting look at how art restoration works. But, in looking at restoration of existing paintings, he also delves into how he, as a gallery owner, along with his staff, find work that has remained under-valued or unvalued for centuries. And then how that piece, now restored by Mould's team of experts, ventures back into the art world in renewed glory.
Mould, an appraiser for the BBC's "Antique Roadshow", is also an owner of a gallery in London which specialises in antique portraits. As an aside, I have visited the gallery in the past to see his collection but did not know that this book was written by the gallery's owner until I read the credits. As a book reviewer, I have no reason to falsely rave about his book, even though I have enjoyed visiting his gallery. I suppose that being a fan of antique portraits gave me the impetus to read and review the book, however.
Mould takes five or so examples of "found" paintings - one from his "Antique Roadshow" - and how instinct and education about a painter, his other work, the painting's subject's history, and other "intangables' go into Mould and his staff taking on an often dirty and undistinguished painting on the chance that the painting is "the real thing" - a real Rembrandt, a real Homer Winslow, etc. Probably the most interesting story was that of a Norman Rockwell painting on display at the Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts that...wasn't. Wasn't the "real" Rockwell painting, but rather one done by a disciple of Rockwell, who copied the original for reasons sort of murky, and donated to the museum. The "real" Rockwell was found by the copier's sons after his death and turned over to the museum.
The other examples Mould cites are almost as interesting. Each is a story in-and-of-itself, and most end conclusively. The last painting in the book, that of a Winslow Homer, "found" in Ireland of all places, has been the subject of ownership dispute which have not been worked out yet.
Mould's book is a wonderful read for those interested in art history and in art restoration. Some of the paintings found did not need massive restoration but a few did and Mould recounts the intricacies of physical restoration. Not a long book, Mould makes the most of his subject with descriptions and interviews with his fellow art historians and sellers.