Mystery church painting revealed as £100k treasure

Presenter of Fake or Fortune Fiona Bruce (left)and art expert and fellow presenter Philip Mould standing under a painting by Francesco Montemezzano,
Presenter of Fake or Fortune Fiona Bruce (left)and art expert and fellow presenter Philip Mould standing under a painting by Francesco Montemezzano,
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A mystery painting that has hung in a Lancashire church for hundreds of years has been revealed as a Renaissance treasure worth at least £100,000.

Experts on BBC1’s Fake Or Fortune programme found the painting at St John the Baptist CE Church in Tunstall, north Lancashire, was the work of Francesco Montemezzano - a “second-level” Italian artist and contemporary of some of the greats such as Tintoretto and Titian.

The painting depicts the aftermath of Christ’s crucifixion.

The programme also investigated the original purchase of the painting which brought it to Tunstall, uncovering a complicated family web that ultimately led to the buyer being identified as Frederick Needham, who was a past vicar of St John’s in the early 1800s.

The vicar of St John’s, the Rev Mark Cannon, and church warden Jane Greenhalgh were involved in the programme and were filmed showing presenters Fiona Bruce and art expert Philip Mould the uncleaned and unknown painting at the start of the show.

They were then seen with the fully cleaned and revived painting at the end of the programme, complete with attribution.

Mr Cannon said: “We were hopeful of discovering something about its history, how it got here and why it’s in the church.

“We’ve been down some blind alleys but in the end what was neglected by us all at the back of the church turns out to be something quite special.

The Archdeacon of Lancaster, the Ven Michael Everitt, said: “I am delighted with the outcome and I thank Fiona, Philip and the rest of the BBC team as well as the vicar Mark, churchwarden Jane and all the parishioners for their hard work in solving the mystery.”