Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil

Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil
Painting of a river with tree-lined banks.
Artist Claude Monet (?)
Medium Oil on canvas
Owner David Joel

Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil (Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil) is an oil painting widely accepted by leading fine arts experts to be a work by Claude Monet.[1] The painting is a landscape depicting the River Seine at Argenteuil in France. It is owned by Englishman David Joel.

It was featured on the British TV programme, Fake or Fortune?[1]


The painting was acquired by David Joel in 1992 for £40,000.[1] Joel is an art historian who has published two art books, the first a catalogue raisonné of the marine paintings of Charles Brooking, the second a history of Monet at Vétheuil and on the Norman Coast.[2][3] The painting had previously been offered for sale at auction, but failed to reach its £500,000 reserve.[1][4] The title Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil along with the date, 1875, appears on the frame, and there is a painted signature of Claude Monet.[1] In the years since he purchased it, Joel has attempted to establish it as an authentic Monet.[1] The most widely accepted authority on Monet's work is the catalogue raisonné published by the Wildenstein Institute in Paris.[1] The Wildenstein Institute has examined the painting once, after the death of Daniel Wildenstein, and does not accept it as genuine.[1] Fiona Bruce (a journalist) and Philip Mould (an art dealer and historian) investigated the painting in the TV programme Fake or Fortune? first aired on 19 June 2011.[1][5] The Art Access Research Centre scanned the picture using high resolution, infrared and X-ray photography.[1] At the Lumiere Technology Centre the picture was scanned using a 240-megapixel camera and 13 light filters.[1] The resulting image was examined by Iris Schaefer, the head of conservation at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, who previously uncovered a fake Monet which had been accepted by the Wildenstein Institute. She declared the Joel painting genuine.[1] The chemical analysis of paints used in the painting and signature were studied by Nicholas Eastaugh (Courtauld Institute of Art) and were found to conform precisely with Monet's palette and the mediums he used in 1873.[6]

The programme had the brushwork and signature examined by experts who concluded that they were by Monet.[1] The programme concluded that the painting was genuine, an opinion shared by a number of experts,[1] including Monet scholars Professor John House (Courtauld Institute of Art),[1] Professor Paul Hayes Tucker, and others.[7] However the Wildenstein Institute did not accept this conclusion, and continues to regard the painting as a fake based predominantly on the connoisseurship of the late Daniel Wildenstein.[1][8] The only photograph he would have had access to was a small 4 cm x 8 cm black and white copy in an obituary of Monet, written by René Chavange for Le Figaro Artistique in 1926.[9] The painting was sold by Georges Petit in 1918 to the Khalil Palace in Cairo, where it stayed until 1953.[1] It is known that Khalil bought a second Monet from Petit at the same time. This is W1520, Le pont aux nymphéas, signed but not dated, which remains in his collection in Cairo. Rodolphe Walter, of the Wildenstein Institute, confirms that all of Petit’s records were destroyed in World War II. As such, Daniel Wildenstein would have had no access to a photo of the painting other than the one in Le Figaro.

The photograph from the 1926 Le Figaro obituary
The reverse of the photograph sent by Petit to Khalil

The Institute has since been provided with further photographs. Daniel Wildenstein was sent a photograph in 1992 by Christie's, which was rejected. After the curator of the Khalil Museum discovered an original photograph sent by Petit to Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil in 1918 (discussed further below) Guy Wildenstein was informed, but chose to ignore the evidence, relying instead on "connoisseurship".[1]


The stretcher has a label from the Paris art supplies dealer Latouche who is known to have had dealings with Monet and to have supplied canvases to a number of impressionist artists. The style of this label suggests the canvas was sold before 1884. On the back of the painting there is also a French railway sticker for transport from Paris to Argenteuil where Monet lived between 1871 and 1878.[1] The back of the painting has a further sticker from a London gallery, Arthur Tooth and Sons, which handled a number of Monet paintings. The sticker has the number 3322. Gallery records show that it was acquired from Mahmoud Khalil, an Egyptian art collector whose collection is now housed in the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo. The museum records show a large black and white photograph (16 cm by 30 cm) of the painting, sent by Paris art dealer Georges Petit. Petit owned the largest gallery in Paris in Rue de Seze. In June 1889 he mounted the great Monet/Rodin exhibition having persuaded his friend Monet to raise his prices. He showed 145 paintings, selling most of them. He remained Monet's second dealer, after Durand Ruel until he died in 1920. This photograph is the dealer's card, sent to Khalil in Cairo in 1918 and leading to his purchase of the painting. On the reverse of the photograph, in the top left corner, is written the number 5575, followed by "Claude Monet, Les Bords de la Seine a Argenteuil, 42.5x73cm". This number appears also on a label on the reverse of the painting itself (even the handwriting is identical). Stylistically, the label matches others which are known to be from the Georges Petit gallery, and the number implies that it was in Petit’s gallery in 1918, well before Monet’s death in 1926. The funeral was held at Giverny on 8 December, and the obituary was published by Le Figaro eight days later, illustrated by what appears to be the same photograph.[1]

The evidence suggests the following provenance:[10]

  • 1881: Given by Monet in lieu of medical fees to Dr Charles Porak.
  • 1915: Sold to Georges Petit, Paris.[11]
  • 1918: Bought by Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil, Paris and Cairo (died in Paris, 30 December 1952).
  • 1953: 4 January sold via Andre Maurice, Paris, to Arthur Tooth & Sons.
  • 1954: Sold to Sir Clifford and Lady Curzon.
  • 1982: By descent to Fritz Curzon, Esq.
  • 1993: Bought by David Joel.


  • Exposition Française en Caire, 1827-1927, Collection of Mohammed Mahmoud bey Khalil, Cairo, cat. no.74.
  • Memorial Exhibition to Dudley Tooth, London, November 1972, cat. no.7.
  • Monet Retrospective (arranged by Professor Paul Hayes Tucker), Japan, 1994. Cat. no.26, travelled to Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo, February–April, Nagoya City Art Museum, April–June, Hiroshima Museum of Art, June–July.
  • Crane Kalman Gallery, Silence in Painting, October–December, 1999.


Similar works

Monet painted a number of scenes in the Argenteuil area. An acknowledged work with the same title was painted by Monet in 1872. This work was sold at a Sotheby's auction in New York for $4.8 million in 2005.[12]

Businessman Ralph Wilson acquired a Monet painting with the title La Seine a Argenteuil in 1997 from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Wilson held the painting until his death in 2014, at which point it was put up for auction. Wilson's Monet is worth between $12 million and $17 million.[13]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 "Monet". Fake or Fortune?. Episode 1. 19 June 2011. BBC. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  2. Joel, David. "Charles Brooking, 1723-1759, and the 18th Century British Marine Painters". Antique Collectors Club, 2000 (published for the National Maritime Museum. It is the earliest Catalogue Raisonne for any English painter, for Hogarth died after Brooking.)
  3. Joel, David. "Monet at Vétheuil and on the Norman Coast, 1878-1883". Antique Collectors Club, 2002.(It covers all of Monet's lifetime, with an analysis of his pictures)
  4. "Mail Online". 2011-06-12. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  5. Freeman, Len (2011-06-19). "BBC programme preview". Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  6. Joel, David. "Monet at Vétheuil and on the Norman Coast, 1878-1883". Antique Collectors Club, 2002, p.190 and p.195
  7. The painting was included in "Monet: a Retrospective", curated by Tucker, Katsunori Fukaya, and Katsumi Miyazaki. Copyright by Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1994.
  8. TV and Radio. "Telegraph programme review". Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  9. "Le Figaro Artistique, 16 December 1926, p.149 (Published eight days after Monet's death)". Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  10. 1 2 Joel, David. "Monet at Vétheuil and on the Norman Coast, 1878-1883". p.191
  11. Although in Joel's book this sale is reported as occurring in 1919, subsequent research in Cairo has revealed the true date to be 1915. See Fake and Fortune
  12. "Auction report". Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  13. Wawrow, John (June 5, 2014). Bills owner's estate auctioning off art collection. Associated Press. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
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