Fake Lindauer painting kept in cupboard for years before $75,000 Turnbull sale
A fake Lindauer painting that cost the Alexander Turnbull Library $75,000 was kept in a cupboard for more than a decade by its previous owner, because his wife didn't like it.
The taxpayer-funded Turnbull library revealed last month that forensic testing had confirmed the work it bought at auction in 2013 was a forgery.
The 60cm x 50cm oil-on-canvas portrait of a Maori man, purportedly by renowned New Zealand artist Gottfried Lindauer, appears to have fooled generations of art aficionados.
Chemical testing by the national heritage collector, carried out after its 2013 purchase, showed the paint used was of a type not available when Lindauer was alive.
The origin of the fake remains a mystery, but Stuff's inquiries have revealed it was bought by Hastings orchardist Cyril D'Ath in November 1974.
D'Ath bid $4600 for the work, a "featured lot" that went under the hammer in an auction held in Hastings by Hawke's Bay antique and art dealer Murray McKearney.
After D'Ath died in the 1990s, the painting was passed down to one of his sons, Murray D'Ath, also of Hastings. He held on to it until 2013, when he put it up to be auctioned in Wellington by prominent auction house Dunbar Sloane.
Attempts to contact D'Ath this week were unsuccessful but his brother John confirmed Murray was the vendor of the work in 2013.
Police opened an investigation last month after the Turnbull referred the matter to them. A Turnbull spokesman said on Thursday there was "nothing to suggest that the vendor or auctioneer has acted improperly at any point".
John D'Ath said that, after his father bought the painting in 1974, it was kept in a cupboard at the family's orchard homestead just outside Hastings because his mother did not like the work.
The portrait, entitled Hamiora Maioha and thought to depict a Ngapuhi iwi member born in either the mid or late 19th century, was passed down to Murray after their father's death, John D'Ath said.
A suspicion that the painting was fake was raised by art historian Roger Blackley before the 2013 auction, but Turnbull chief librarian Chris Szekely said last month the library "backed our own judgment", which proved to be wrong.
A police spokeswoman said officers involved in the case "have not spoken to the previous owner, but it is something they are working on".
The Turnbull spokesman said there were no immediate plans to put the fake work on public display. It was being held at the National Library building in Wellington "pending the outcome of the [police] investigation".
If it remained in the library's collection after the investigation, it would be available for viewing on request, or to be loaned to other exhibiting institutions.