And then there were three... Colin Young of Golding Young with the trio of bronze monkeys.

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Just as Grantham auctioneers Golding Young announced they would decide the fate of the controversial bronzes at auction in July, a third figure has come to light.

For over 10 years the late Colin Wilson, a Lincolnshire dealer, researched and championed the authenticity of two small bronze monkeys that he bought at auction in the 1990s for a few hundred pounds.

Made of a gunmetal with a high lead content that has been dated to the 16th/17th century, Mr Wilson believed they were from Giambologna's fountain of Samson and a Philistine erected in Florence c.1569 and later moved to the gardens of Aranjuez, south of Madrid.

A pen and wash drawing in the Uffizi shows the fountain in situ with its central marble figure (the celebrated sculpture now in the V&A) and four niches containing seated monkeys cast in bronze. Believers say Wilson's monkeys are a good match for size.

The vendor of the new discovery had first tried to get in contact after seeing Colin Wilson on Find a Fortune, a television programme presented by Carol Vorderman. However, it was only after reading a recent copy of ATG, complete with a full-page Golding Young advertisment promoting 'The Colin Wilson Monkeys' that contact was finally made.

The third monkey, adopting a different posture to the Wilson pair, was bought by the vendor's father during the 1950s for a reputed £2.10s.0d from a scrap merchant in Ickleford Hertfordshire. Tantalisingly it is just a few miles from the saleroom where Colin Wilson made his find.

Auctioneer Colin Young, who has followed the cause of the monkeys for several years, believes the new discovery - that has been tested as a Renaissance bronze - will undoubtedly unlock new theories to add to the 42-point dossier already available on the Golding Young website.

It certainly adds credence to the assumption that the monkeys were modelled in two pairs.

"This is a fantastic development. It may be wishful thinking, but it just may be that the fourth monkey could be found before the sale [where all three figures will be offered]. The close call of the geographical finds gives us hope," he told ATG

The July sale will also include a private collection of bronzes that were consigned in 2001 for inclusion at the time when the monkeys were to be sold.

By Roland Arkell