A Kirkcaldy man has discovered an oil painting in his attic which may be by the world’s greatest twentieth century artist, Pablo Picasso.
The cubist portrait had lain untouched in a suitcase for 55 years and owner, Dominic Currie, had considered throwing it on a skip.
It had belonged to his mother, who revealed only two years before she died that, during the Cold War, she had fallen pregnant to a Russian soldier.
She also revealed her Soviet lover had gifted her a painting but Dominic dismissed her story as fantasy - until he opened the suitcase himself.
Dominic, an artist-in-residence at Kirkcaldy’s Sailor’s Walk Gallery, said: “I saw a roll of cloth and thought that was the actual painting then realised there was a canvas rolled up inside.
“My son and I slowly opened it up and I saw a juggle of cubes and squares and thought: ‘What the hell is this?’ We had to tease it open because it had been curled up for decades.”
To the family’s amazement a Picasso signature revealed itself in the bottom right-hand corner of the canvas.
Dominic (58) said: “I thought ‘No, this can’t be’ then we looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“Then we started looking at it seriously and were absolutely dumbfounded. It was a bizarre, surreal moment.”
In 1998, Dominic was stunned to learn his real father was Nicolai Vladimirovich, a Russian soldier whom Annette Currie, then only 19 years old, met in 1955 during a holiday to Poland.
Following their son’s birth the next year, the couple wrote regularly and occasionally reunited when Annette took trips behind the Iron Curtain.
It was during one of these rare reunions that, according to Annette, Nicolai gave her a painting to sell, knowing she would struggle financially as a single parent.
Dominic said: “I wouldn’t have thought that my mum was knowledgeable about art. She never discussed art, as far as I know. The name Picasso wouldn’t have registered.
“Maybe the Russian explained what it was but when she looked at it she thought it was the ugliest thing she had seen in her life. She totally dismissed it. Saying that, she never threw it out.”
The long-distance relationship fizzled out by the early ‘60s, when Annette met and later married a local man.
Meanwhile, Dominic, who had been brought up by his grandparents, believed his mother was his sister until the truth emerged in the late ‘80s.
When Annette died in 2000, he thought her tale of the suitcase’s contents far-fetched and placed it in his attic in Methil for another 15 years.
He said: “She never threw anything out and I just thought it would be a suitcase full of rubbish. We had actually considered putting it to the skip.
“When my mum died I was closer to her than at anytime of my life and it really broke me up. I didn’t want anything to remind me of her because it was too painful.”
In addition to the canvas, the suitcase contained clothes, handbags, Russian money, travel documents and a photograph of Nicolai in military uniform.
“I thought there would be more of me in it - maybe photographs of me when I was growing up, that I’d never seen,” said Dominic. “I never dreamt it would all be about that period in her life.”
The canvas was damp and appeared to have been cut from its frame. To the rear, it was covered in Russian newspaper pages which had partly deteriorated but a date of 1953 is still clearly visible.
Preliminary research suggests the work bears a striking resemblance to Picasso’s ‘Portrait of Kahnweiler’ which was painted in 1910 and is part of the collection of the Institute of Art in Chicago.
Last month, a 1955 Picasso painting - Les Femmes d’Alger - broke auction records when it sold at Christie’s for a staggering £115 million.
Dominic has referred his painting to Christie’s for appraisal and admitted he was nervously waiting for a verdict from experts.
He barely slept for three days after the discovery and is now preoccupied with trying to understand his family’s history.
He said: “If my painting is genuine, my father obviously wanted to look after me and my mother as well. For that I’d love to shake his hand, I’d love to meet him.
“Whether he knew the full value of what he gave her I don’t know. I can only assume he must have known something.
“It wouldn’t have made sense for him to have given her something which he would have known was a fake. To him, it must have been real and tangible.”
He added: “This is just too bizarre to take in. How do you cope with something like this - it’s like getting six numbers in the lottery. Should we get it framed and stick it up over the mantlepiece?”
As a precaution, Dominic has placed the painting in a secure location and if it eventually passes scrutiny, he intends to sell it at auction - because his parents would have wished it.
He said: “It’s a wonderful gift. It’s like a message from both of them to me. That’s how it feels. It’s like: ‘Here son, we’re going to look after you. It’s taken a wee while but we’ve got there’.”