August 24, 2022 - 12:32 AMT
Iconic Yousuf Karsh photo of Winston Churchill goes missing

One of the most famous portraits of Winston Churchill is missing from the Château Laurier's Reading Lounge after apparently being replaced with a copy, but exactly how long ago it disappeared is a mystery, CBC reports.

A staff member at the storied downtown Ottawa hotel, just steps from Parliament Hill, discovered on August 26-27 that the portrait hanging on the wall was a replica, not the original that was installed in 1998.

Specifically, the employee noticed its frame wasn't hung quite right and didn't match those of the other five portraits in the lounge, which were also taken by Canadian-Armenian photographer Yousuf Karsh.

Karsh, one of the 20th century's most famous portrait photographers, took the photo in 1941 when the then-British prime minister was in Ottawa to address Parliament during the Second World War.

Jerry Fielder, who was hired by Karsh himself in 1979 and is now director of Karsh's estate, got a call from the Château Laurier's general manager on Saturday.

The work that was supposed to be hanging there was made from a negative and signed by Karsh, but when Fielder asked to be sent a copy of the signature, he knew instantly that it was a forgery.

"It wasn't his signature," Fielder said.

The hotel then contacted Ottawa police, who confirmed to CBC on Monday that they are investigating the potential theft.

"I couldn't believe that anyone would do this," Fielder told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday. "It had been there for so long and had been such a part of the hotel. It was shocking and very saddening."

What happened to the original iconic image is unclear. Fielder said that the last time he saw it hanging in the hotel was in July 2019, and that "it was the real thing."