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Antiques Roadshow expert Frances Christie© BBC

Antiques Roadshow expert refuses to value item after hearing 'incredible' history

Art expert Frances Christie inspected a painting from 1946

Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
April 29, 2024
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Antiques Roadshow's modern art expert Frances Christie refused to give a valuation during Sunday night's episode after discovering a treasured item's "incredible" history.

Frances joined host Fiona Bruce and the team at the Ulster Folk Museum, just outside Belfast, where she inspected an incredible watercolour painting of a priest. 

WATCH: Do you remember when Ronnie Archer-Morgan refused to value an item link to the slave trade?

Impressed by the "striking" portrait, Frances said: "I love how the artist has captured the glint on his glasses," before asking for more information about the sitter.

"The sitter is my uncle, Father Dan Cummings, and he was a Redemptorist priest," explained the painting's owner. "When World War II broke out, Ireland was neutral, but then, they got a request for chaplains. So, Dan volunteered and joined the British Army. He was part of the liberation forces at Belsen."

Antiques Roadshow expert Frances Christie© BBC
Antiques Roadshow expert Frances Christie inspected a World War Two painting

Expanding on the context behind the item, Frances said: " Of course, as we now know, Belsen was one of the very large concentration camps in the north of Germany, and it was one of the first to be liberated by British troops," prompting the guest to share more details about Father Dan's life. 

"Once the liberation happened, he stayed on in the hospital for one year and during that period, this was painted by one of the inmates, presumably as part of his recuperation and rehabilitation," she said. 

Antiques Roadshow guest© BBC
The guest explained her personal connection to the painting

Upon closer inspection of the artwork, Frances commented on the artist's signature. "Well, it's signed at the top 'Baumeister, Hans', and dated 1946, so the year after liberation," began the expert. "As you say, it must've been part of the period directly afterwards when, you know, we all know the story now, it was such a shocking discovery when they liberated Belsen.

"What I think is incredible about this portrait though is that it brings alive - and you're sharing with us - the experiences of clearly someone, from here, who devoted his services and clearly made a real difference," she continued. "I mean the fact that this was signed, 'Hans Baumeister', who is an artist that I've never come across before but looking at the portrait, it's really beautifully painted."

Antiques Roadshow
The sitter was a Redemptorist priest named Father Dan Cummings

Frances went on to praise the artwork as a "symbol of two very different people coming together". "The fact that Hans painted this of your uncle shows that he was clearly quite an important part of his life," she said. 

After acknowledging the incredible history behind the work, Frances declined to value the item. "In terms of value, I mean, this is the Antiques Roadshow, so we usually do put a value on things," she said. "But I'm not going to put a monetary value on it today because it is so much more important than that because of its connection with Belsen, because of your uncle being someone from Belfast who was there at the moment of liberation. It has so much more of an important social and historical context."

While the cameras cut away before the guest could react, she was smiling while Frances delivered her verdict. 

Antiques Roadshow is available on BBC iPlayer. 

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