Questions raised over Tretchikoff's Lost Orchid

Questions have been raised over whether Vladimir Tretchikoff painted more than one version of his famous Lost Orchid which fetched R2,9-million on auction last week, Beeld reported on Tuesday.

This follows several differences between the painting owned by murdered mining magnate Brett Kebble and a picture of the painting that appeared in a book on Tretchikoff’s work in the 1960s.

The 56,5cm X 54,8cm painting is regarded as one of the most famous works by the Russian-born artist who died in Cape Town in 2006.

According to Graham’s Fine Art’s auction catalogue, Lost Orchid previously belonged to American actor Mark Dawson. This is according to Howard Timmins’ 1969 publication on Tretchikoff’s work.

But, the work depicted in Timmins’ book differs in places to the work sold at last week’s auction of Kebble’s art assets, the report said.

The image in Timmins’ book has a burnt match on the step, while it is missing in the Kebble work.

A drop on the orchid in the Timmins work lies on the orchid’s petal, whereas in the Kebble work, it hangs off the petal,

On closer inspection, smaller differences in detail become apparent.

Possibly the most fascinating difference is the artist’s name.

Throughout his work, Tretchikoff’s signature did not have lines struck through the letters “f” in his surname, but in the Kebble work, it is struck through.

These difference could raise suspicions, but there could be an innocent explanation, the report suggested.

Graham Britz, owner of Graham’s Fine Art in Broadacres, north of Johannesburg, insists the work sold on auction is Tretchikoff’s work.

Professor Karel Nel, art lecturer at Wits University in Johannesburg, says it is possible that Tretchikoff painted more than one version because both works are very similar, and the one could have encouraged him to do another version.

He added that for Tretchikoff, reproductions had a certain charm.

Karen Preller, artist and collaborator on the auction catalogue, said Lost Orchid is such an iconic work that she did not notice the differences and only became aware of it after the auction. - Sapa

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