An English Woman Paid $100 for a Sculpture at a Trunk Sale That Turned Out to Be an Elisabeth Frink Work Worth $72,000

The BBC show "Fake or Fortune" revealed the discovery.

English sculptor and printmaker Elisabeth Frink is pictured wearing goggles, in front of her Goggle Head bronze sculptures series in March 1985. Photo by Fresco/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A sculpture by the late artist Elisabeth Frink that’s estimated to be worth about $72,000 was found in a car trunk sale in the U.K., the BBC show Fake or Fortune revealed in a recent episode.

Amanda Kirke discovered the sculpture at a flea market-like sale in the Essex countryside where people sell goods out of their cars. Kirke bought the “hunk of metal,” as the show’s host, art dealer Philip Mould, told the Antiques Trade Gazette, for just £90 ($108). It was dirty, but “the owner ran it under a tap and the name Elisabeth Frink came up.”

Kirke searched Frink’s works online and found an edition, titled Small Warrior, of 10 similar-looking figures in 1956 and contacted a gallery that had long sold the artist’s work. The gallery told Kirke that the sculpture could not be verified without knowing its provenance, so the show stepped in to help find the evidence.

“This proves to be one of the team’s most difficult investigations. As well as the sculpture’s dubious emergence at a car boot sale, they face a provenance that is virtually non-existent,” BBC One wrote in its episode notes online.

The Fake or Fortune team analyzed the metal to compare it with the makeup of the bronze in other versions of the Small Warrior series, which they had to track down, Mould told ATG.

Pangolin Editions, a sculpture foundry, helped the team determine that the sculpture wasn’t recast and came from the original. The team also found clay remnants at the base of the sculpture from when it was cast.

“What I hadn’t realized was how much a piece of bronze can have a personality. Like making a cake, it has specific individual ingredients,” Mould said. “We were able to establish it came from same ingot that made the others we had found. In a sense we were able to fingerprint the piece of bronze.”

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