Prince Charles’s Charity Displayed Paintings by Picasso, Dalí, and Monet—Until a Convicted Forger Claimed Them as His Own
'There's no way the paintings could pass even the lightest scrutiny," the artist claiming them said.
Prince Charles has found himself at the center of a $136 million fake-art scandal. The British royal, who is a former trustee of London’s National Gallery and grew up surrounded by Old Masters, must have been delighted when the flamboyant British businessman James Stunt agreed to lend 17 works supposedly by Monet, Picasso, and Salvador Dalí to Dumfries House, the historic property in Scotland that is a cause close to the heart of the heir to the British throne.
But paintings purportedly by the Modern masters have been quietly returned after Los Angeles artist and convicted forger Tony Tetro said he painted them. They were done “in the style and spirit of a particular painter,” but they were Tetro’s own original work, he told Artnet News. “I want to make very clear that while the painting and technique were quite good, there is no way that these paintings could pass even the lightest scrutiny. The canvases are new, paint is modern, stretcher bars are not correct or period.”
The paintings were lent by Stunt to the Prince’s charity for display at the 19th-century house, which Prince Charles was instrumental in saving for the nation. The works included a crucifixion said to be by Dalí, “Monet” water lilies, and a “Picasso” canvas showing two Surrealist figures on a beach. The works were among the 17-strong collection reported to have been quietly removed from display at Dumfries House by the Princes’ Foundation, which is one of Prince Charles’s many charities.
In a statement, the Prince’s Trust said: “It is extremely regrettable that the authenticity of these particular few paintings, which are no longer on display, now appears to be in doubt.” A spokeswoman declined to say how many works were on loan from Stunt, or when they were returned. Tetro says he made 10 or 11 paintings for Stunt, “for his homes and office as decoration.”
The Daily Mail reports that Stunt has apologized to the Prince and his charity, saying: “What is the crime of lending them to a stately home, [to] the Prince of Wales and putting them on display for the public to enjoy?” He stopped short of accepting that he knew they weren’t originals.
In a further twist to the plot, the newspaper reports that Stunt has also lent at least one work to the Houses of Parliament. A spokesman for the House of Commons declined to comment, telling Artnet News that “loan contracts are confidential.”
Tetro, who was found guilty of art forgery involving works by Dalí, Miro, Chagall, and Norman Rockwell in the past, now makes what he calls “emulations” of Modern masterworks. Stunt “knew with 100 percent certainty that these works were by me,” Tetro said, a claim that Stunt denies. “We discussed the subject of the paintings and many of the particulars. These were decorative paintings that were purposely made by me as decorations for his home,” Tetro added.
Tetro said that Stunt bought various copies of old as well as modern masters. He said that Stunt paid for one group of copies with a genuine portrait by Joshua Reynolds, which Tetro said he sold at Christie’s in 2015. Their business relationship cooled in 2017, however. Tetro said that he was left with a “Picasso” portrait of Dora Maar commissioned by Stunt.
Stunt, who was declared bankrupt this summer, is best known for his feud with his former father-in-law, the motor racing mogul Bernie Ecclestone. He is fond of using Instagram to rant at Ecclestone and other critics, sometimes with a Monet or Warhol in hanging in the background.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.