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Forger claims credit for paintings in Prince Charles's charity headquarters
In this file photo from left: President Emmanuel Macron of France; Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain; Prince Charles; Queen Elizabeth; Trump, first lady Melania Trump; President Prokopis Pavlopoulos of Greece (obscured); Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany; Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands; Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg; and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. Doug Mills/The New York Times. by Iliana Magra

LONDON (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- Until recently, visitors to the headquarters of one of Prince Charles’ charities in Scotland could say that they had seen, among other artworks, three paintings by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.

Or so they thought.

A well-known American art forger says that the paintings — displayed at Dumfries House, an 18th-century estate that stretches across 2,000 acres and houses the headquarters of the Prince’s Foundation, one of Prince Charles’ charities — were not actually the works of modern masters.

He says he painted them himself.

The forger, Tony Tetro, said in an email Monday that he had painted at least three works that were lent to the charity — pieces that The Times of London reported had an estimated value of 100 million pounds, or about $129 million.

A spokesman for the Prince’s Foundation confirmed Monday that the authenticity of the paintings, which have been removed from display, was in doubt.

All three, along with a painting credited to Marc Chagall and other works whose identities were not disclosed, were being returned to James Stunt, a bankrupt former bullion dealer and art collector who lent the works to the foundation.

Tetro — who in 1993 pleaded no contest to forging paintings by artists like Dalí in Los Angeles — said in an email Monday that Stunt had commissioned him to create the paintings from 2015 to 2017.

The forger said that any expert eye could have detected that the paintings were not the work of the celebrated artists whose names were attached to them.

None of the paintings “could possibly be construed as real,” Tetro said, despite their mimicking the artists’ style and technique: rose-tainted water lilies surrounding a light blue stream, a la Monet; two bathers at the beach, inspired by Picasso’s works of the 1920s and 1930s; and a dying Christ, replicating Dalí’s style from the early 1950s.

“The pigments, materials, canvas, stretcher bars and other details could be easily detected by even the slightest inspection, and this was done purposely so as to avoid any confusion,” Tetro said in the email.

Stunt — the former husband of the socialite and heiress Petra Ecclestone, whose father is a past chief executive of the Formula One Group — could not be reached for comment Monday.

Clarence House, the London residence of Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, said Monday that the prince was not directly involved in the issue. Although Dumfries House is a charity headquarters, it is not a royal residence.

Tetro said that his paintings would have earned him around $20,000 each, but that Stunt had paid him in kind, with paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The forger said that in commissioning the works, Stunt had given him details by telephone of what the paintings should look like, and that he had also painted several other works for the businessman. “I don’t know where they ended up or if he still has them,” Tetro said.

In an interview published in Tatler, a British society magazine, in March 2018, Stunt was presented as a larger-than-life figure with expensive tastes and important connections, including the prince himself.

Stunt, who, according to that article, kept framed letters from Prince Charles in his office and a photograph of the two of them in his house, said that he had lent paintings to Dumfries House, whose donors also include the Scottish National Gallery.

“Works from the likes of Velázquez, Monet, van Dyck, Dalí, Picasso and Constable — a wide array over a two-year period,” Stunt was quoted as saying, adding that a Chagall painting had gone there recently.

“But it would be hypocritical to name the pieces when I said I didn’t want recognition,” he added in the interview.

Tetro said that the titles he had given to the paintings were different from those listed as having been displayed at Dumfries House, as cited by The Daily Mail newspaper, which first reported on them.

The forger said he had named the Picasso-style painting “Naked Bathers” and the Dalí-inspired one “Christ Rising Above the Red Sea Ascending Towards Heaven.” The Daily Mail cited those paintings as “Liberated Bathers” and “Dying Christ.”

Tetro said he felt bad for any negative implications the paintings might have for Prince Charles.

“I would like to say that I’m very sorry if Prince Charles was embarrassed by this,” Tetro wrote in the email Monday. “It’s the last thing I thought could ever happen.”

© 2019 The New York Times Company

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