Crawley man sells Picasso painting at auction - which he found at a car boot

The Picasso painting
The Picasso painting

A lost masterpiece by the legendary artist Picasso bought for £230 at a car boot sale today (Friday) was valued at about £1 million when it went up for auction - and sold for just £8,000.

Lucky antiques collector Philip Stapleton bought the Seated Bather painting because he loved it - and, despite not making a mint out of it, still managed to end up with a tidy profit.

The Picasso painting

The Picasso painting

But after keeping it on his desk for six months, he took it to Brighton and Hove Auction House so the experts there could tell him if he shelled out too much.

The 52-year-old from Crawley in West Sussex said he was “like a rabbit in headlights” after hearing the news that the artwork was likely genuine and worth well over seven figures.

It was believed the painting was a gift to Roland Penrose, an artist and collector and close friend of Pablo Picasso, who often visited his estate in Chiddingly, East Sussex.

But ahead of it going for sale at Brighton and Hove Auction Rooms, master forger David Henty claimed that he painted the piece, saying he “gave it away three years ago”.

The riddle was finally solved after an art collector Francis Kiss then came forward to say it could not have been made by the forger – as he owned it at the time.

Today the sketch, which was estimated to fetch between £60,000 to £80,000, sold for just £8,000 after two-and-a-half minutes of bidding.

Before the disappointing sale, an auctioneer said: "Where do we start. Lot 418 is this Pablo Picasso 1818-1973.

"It's a smaller version of the Seated Bather and surely you've seen the amount of press we've got on.

"We believe it's a signed Picasso to the bottom of the right, and also in pencil on the left."

Immediately afterwards a limited edition self-portrait by paedophile DJ Rolf Harris sold for £36.

Francis said the artwork was bought by him 13 years ago and he only lost it six months ago.

The 57-year-old said he purchased The Seated Bather from an antiques store in his home town of Chichester, west Sussex, for £150 and had it on his wall for more than a decade.

He had given it to a friend to take to France to find Picasso’s family and prove it was genuine.

But when the artist’s family could not be reached, the painting was then passed to another friend who sold it at a car boot sale after a misunderstanding - where Philip bought it.

Francis has been in to the auction house to prove the piece was his, saying he has a photo of it hanging on his wall and a receipt from the purchase in 2006.

Rosie May, general manager at Hove Auctions said she was in “disbelief” when she realised it could be the real deal last month.

Sceptical at first, she said she decided to take it out of the frame and couldn’t believe what she saw. She said: “On the back you can see underneath is a message very clear Picasso’s signature but of the later style that he did.

“The signature is clearly Picasso but with a message - you could try to work out what it says, it could be in Spanish, it could be in English, it could be in French we’re not sure, but very definitely there’s the name Roland and a date, but the date’s quite indistinct - we’d love to know what the message says.

“The painting itself is on board as Picasso did, with his pallet but with deeper contrast and signed on the front and if you look very closely with a spy glass you can almost see another Picasso underneath as well.

“His friendship with Penrose was around the 1950s so we believe he probably gifted it to him and wrote the message on the back."

Rosie added: “It’s just amazing to be able to touch a real Picasso, it’s crazy.”