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A Mystery Old Master

Episode 3 of 4

Art series with Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould. The team investigate how a possible 16th-century Italian Old Master found its way into a small English church.

A beautiful church in the heart of the Lancastrian countryside has for over 200 years been home to a possible 16th-century Italian Old Master. But it is also at the centre of an unusual mystery. The congregation have contacted Fake or Fortune? to help solve a riddle which has been puzzling everyone. Who painted this huge picture, and just how did it find its way into a church once patronised by the famous Bronte sisters?

Philip is immediately struck by the imposing painting, which depicts one of the most dramatic scenes from the New Testament, the aftermath of the crucifixion of Christ. He has a hunch it might date from the Italian Renaissance, which would make it the oldest picture ever investigated on Fake or Fortune?

But to prove his theory will require a series of scientific tests to look beneath the layers of dirt and grime to see if any clues to the artist's identity can be revealed.

The trail leads Fiona and Philip on a surprising and colourful journey to Italy, where Philip wants to inspect pictures by the great Old Masters Titian and Tintoretto. Fiona uncovers a secret history of stolen paintings and meets an Italian scholar who may have a significant lead in the case.

Back in the UK, Bendor is looking into a local aristocrat who the congregation believe donated the painting and discovers some family secrets which may shed new light on how the painting arrived in the church over two centuries ago.

But the British art market will take some convincing that an artist can be officially attributed to the picture, and this will require a hugely ambitious restoration project. By fully cleaning the picture, can Fake or Fortune? prove beyond doubt the identity of the painter?

59 minutes

Last on

Sun 26 Jul 2015 20:00

Tunstall church

Tunstall church

St. John the Baptist Church and one of its former vicars, Rev. William Carus Wilson, are immortalised in Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre. The reverend is renamed Mr. Brocklehurst and the church Brocklebridge. Rev. Wilson had founded the School for Clergy Daughters at Cowan Bridge in Tunstall Parish. 

The Bronte sisters Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily all attended the school but following an outbreak of flu in the school’s second winter Maria died of consumption and the other three children were later taken out of the school in June 1825. 

The Bronte sisters regularly walked across fields from their home to attend services in the church in Tunstall. It’s very probable that the sisters would have seen the mystery old master painting which would have been hung in the church by this time. 


Role Contributor
Presenter Fiona Bruce
Presenter Philip Mould
Expert Bendor Grosvenor
Producer Francis Welch
Series Producer Robert Murphy


  • Sun 19 Jul 2015 20:05
  • Sun 26 Jul 2015 20:00

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