Lord of the manor ‘tried to sell fake Lowry for £330,000 at meeting in Ritz hotel’
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 12:49 AM on 25th February 2009
Lord Maurice Taylor claims he told ‘little white lies’ so it would sound better
A lord of the manor tricked an art dealer into buying a fake L.S. Lowry painting for £330,000 at a meeting in his room at London’s Ritz hotel.
Lord Maurice Taylor – who also calls himself Lord Windsor – convinced the dealer the painting known as Mill Street Scene was genuine by revealing it had been given an auction value of £450,000 by Bonhams Auctioneers, Chester Crown Court was told.
But when David Smith, Managing Director of Neptune Fine Arts, checked with another dealer after paying over most of the cash, he discovered the picture was a well-known forgery on the Manchester art scene, said Sion Ap Mihangel, prosecuting.
Lord Taylor, 60, who lives in a mansion near Congleton, Cheshire, told a number of dealers including Mr Smith that he had bought the painting from a Manchester industrialist named Eddie Rossenfield in the early 1970s.
But in fact he had purchased it in 2004 from a dealer called Martin Heaps for £7,500, knowing it was not an original, said Mr Ap Mihangel.
Members of the jury were shown the painting, a snowy mill scene with ‘matchstick figures’ in the foreground.
It may have looked like a Lowry – but in fact it as only ‘in the style of’ and Lord Taylor must have been aware of the fact, the jury was told.
Lord Taylor denies six counts of fraud and one of forging an invoice to cover his tracks.
David Smith, the alleged victim of the swindle, told the court he specialises in the fine arts, especially paintings by Lowry.
Towards the end of 2007 he was tipped off by a dealer in fine arts in London that a
‘Lord Windsor’ was interested in selling the Mill Street Scene.
Fooled: This forged Lowry Mill Street Scene is well-known in art circles
‘I met him at the Ritz in London with his wife,’ said Mr Smith. ‘He said he had had it valued at Bonham’s auction house in London and it was to appear in a forthcoming sale.
‘He showed me a reference to the painting in a blue-bound document and produced it from a black briefcase. I decided to buy it there and then because the whole scenario was convincing.
‘It was made very easy to buy it. After going back to my home address I later provided my bank details and some of the money was transferred into Taylor’s bank account at Coutts in the Strand.
‘I then went to his home to pay a further £200,000 by bankers draft at his home in Cheshire.
‘It was a sprawling Cheshire mansion with nice furniture and paintings on the walls. I had no concerns about the status of the painting as a Lowry.’
It was only when he had paid over a total of £230,000 that Mr Smith emailed an image of the picture to an expert in Manchester, asking for his views.
He received a phone call back to say that ‘it has been painted by someone to look like a Lowry painting’.
Mr Smith was ‘devastated,’ he told the court. He asked for his money back – to no avail – and he never received the picture.
The prosecution claim that when Taylor bought the painting in 2004 from Martin Heaps he collected it from another dealer called Ivan Aird – an expert who had known the painter.
An invoice had been prepared setting out the status of the painting as an ‘after Lowry’, meaning a copy.
But it is claimed Lord Taylor altered the invoice to delete the ‘after Lowry’ and alter the sale price to £8,000, so that his swindle would not be discovered.
Lord Taylor is accused duping a representative of Bonhams and also of Halcyon Gallery before his fraud on Mr Smith.
He will claim he told ‘little white lies’ to Bonhams and David Smith about the painting being bought in the 1970s, but only because ‘it sounded better’.
Lord Taylor claims he bought the painting from Ivan Aird and because Aird owed him ‘big time’ he sold him an original.
He claims Aird changed the invoice and pocketed £500 during the transaction – which Aird denies.
The case continues.