An antiques dealer sold a customer an early Jack Vettriano painting for £17,000 – despite it’s actual value only being a fraction of that, a court was told on Wednesday.
Kenneth Robb – who formerly ran Kingdom Antiques in Cupar, Fife – faces charges of stealing from and defrauding a total of 44 customers between January 2005 and July 2016.
In one charge it is alleged he sold a painting to Louise Seymour for a vastly inflated value – having told her she was getting it at a discount.
Dundee Sheriff Court heard the painting concerned was signed Jack Hoggan – Vettriano’s birth name which he used on his early work before turning professional.
Art expert Sandro Paladini, who studied art history with the prestigious Christie’s auction firm before taking over his father’s Eduardo Allessandro gallery in Dundee, told the court that he was asked to value the painting by Mrs Seymour after she had bought it.
She earlier explained how she had bought the painting for £17,000 having been told by Robb it was worth £25,000.
Mr Paladini told the court: “It was a painting signed Jack Hoggan – the real name of the painter more commonly known as Jack Vettriano.
“The early paintings by that artist were Victorian pastiches, often copied out of books and tend to be children or figures in Victorian or period dress in a landscape setting.
“From memory this painting fit the description of that. Mrs Seymour contacted me to value the painting after purchasing it.
“I used (my) own knowledge to do that as well as showing it to Nick Curnow, one of the directors of the Edinburgh auction firm Lyon and Turnbull.
“I looked at the painting – that artist’s early works are not particularly valuable.
“They are fairly minor within the trade and by no means are they valued in the same financial bracket as those after he had changed his name. They commonly sell for under £1000 at auction.”
Mr Paladini told the court he would expect the painting to fetch between £500 and £800 at auction and that it should be insured for no more than £1000.
He added: “There was an obvious discrepancy between my valuation and what was paid.”
Defence advocate Drew McKenzie asked Mr Paladini if he was familiar with BBC TV daytime show Bargain Hunt.
He added: “People get items considered bargains and try to sell them for a profit – sometimes they buy for £20 and get £5, or £20, and sometimes they get £150.
“I suggest that demonstrates that a valuation is a subjective exercise?”
Mr Paladini said: “Yes.”
Mr McKenzie asked: “If your valuation was £1000 then a valuation of £6000 for example would be absurd?”
Mr Paladini: “Yes.”
Mr McKenzie: “If Louise Seymour told the court that Christie’s valued it at £6000 would that be absurd?”
Mr Paladini replied: “It would be surprising. I think it is unlikely and I would be surprised.”
Mrs Seymour earlier told the court she had had such a valuation from Christie’s – though it was still well short of the amount she paid.
Robb is alleged to have repeated the painting fraud trick on August 15 2011 at the shop in Bonnygate, Cupar, allegedly telling Josephine Donnelly that a painting in his shop was valued at £6,500, but that he would sell it to her at a discounted price of £4,500.
However, prosecutors say the true value was only £500 and that he obtained £4,500 from her by fraud.
Miss Donnelly is due to give evidence later in the trial.
Robb, 73, of Blalowan Gardens, Cupar, Fife, denies 44 charges of theft and two of fraud on summary complaint.
The trial, before Sheriff George Way, continues.