Claudine Pasticos was called into the Château de Hautefort to work on a painting of a young shepherd with his flock and became convinced that she was restoring a Fragonard.
Apart from the subject-matter, an elegantly depicted pastoral scene of the kind the painter loved, she was struck by “the originality, the difference to other painters” and by the “very personal and original” handling of the paint.
Then she discovered an “F” under the paint, “the ghost of a signature” which had been covered up at some point.
That left Pasticos and architect Jacques Moulin “80 per cent” convinced that the painting is a Fragonard.
The château, which was restored after being almost destroyed by fire in 1968, is run by a foundation set up by the Baronne de Bastard, who owned it until her death.
The painting was bought by well-known 20th-century art collector David David-Weill and was previously owned by Hypolitte Walferdin, who owned 80 paintings and 700 drawings by Fragonard, three of which now hang in the Louvre.