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My Old Master

Features | By James Innes-Mulraine

James Innes-Mulraine achieved his lifetime’s aim of discovering a lost Gainsborough – with not a little help from his Dad

I’d love to say that we first saw the lady in the green dress across a crowded auction room. But, when my father and I stumbled across a lost Gainsborough in 2015, it was in an online auction house catalogue – where so many paintings are bought these days. (We work together as a father and son team of art sleuths.) Dad and I click through the daily email updates from the auction houses. If there’s anything exciting, we ring each other at eleven, when he will be at the gym and I will be on my lunchbreak at work. One morning, we both saw a small painting at an auction in the West Country. It was a three-quarter length portrait of a lady, catalogued as ‘Circle of Arthur Devis’ (1711–1787). Judging by her dress, it was from the 1740s. The estimate was low, and the condition was encouraging. There...

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