Journalist Fiona Bruce and art dealer Philip Mould host the 'Fake or Fortune?' series. The first episode of the new season aired last night with an expert insisting that there was not enough evidence to confirm the identity of a painting potentially by William Nicholson. Image: Philip Mould/BBC.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

However Patricia Reed, a leading authority on Nicholson’s work, ultimately cast doubt on the attribution, saying that there was not enough evidence to confirm the hand of the artist.

“I’m genuinely shocked by that verdict,” Bruce said. “I didn’t expect it. I thought the case was so strong.”

She and Mould had compiled a volume of new forensic evidence around the work, including testimony of a handwriting expert and scientific analysis of the pigments used.

The painting, which shows a glass jug and pears, was originally bought for £165,000 from London dealership Browse & Darby.  According to the BBC, the gallery’s Will Darby said he was also shocked. He said: “As far as I was concerned this painting couldn’t have been done by anyone else.”

The verdict suggested that it could have been the work of one of the amateur painters, known as the ‘Sunday painters’, who were tutored individually by Nicholson during the 1930s.

Mould took to Twitter last night with a photo of the painting in X-ray. “Rarely is an X-ray as revealing as this… I was greatly surprised.”

Later he posted: “Thank you all for watching. It is a very sad outcome for [the owner] Lynne. Tributes go to the team for outstanding research.”