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Old 08-09-2014, 12:45 PM
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drcy drcy is offline
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Missed the 60 minutes episode, but I've read about many of the famous art forgers. Perhaps the most famous one was tried for treason in the Netherlands after WWII, because it was deduced that he had sold Jan Vermeer paintings to the Nazi Field-Marshal Hermann Goering. Goering accumulated a huge art collection of the masters (aka 'Nazi looted art') and the particular paintings in the stash were traced back to the guy. Vermeers were considered national cultural treasures and selling them to the Nazis during war time was considered a huge No No by the Dutch. The pressing problem for the forger was the sentence for treason was death. His defense in court was the Vermeers weren't real and he painted them. The judge didn't believe him and he was forced to paint a painting in court to prove his proficiency. After showing his proficiency, he was instead convicted of forgery with a significantly lighter sentence.

Two interesting things about these famous forgeries. 1) They aren't always motivated by greed. The above painter was a skilled, academically trained painter who made a full time living painting, but was mad at being critically dismissed by the elite art community. His revenge was to fool them by painting forgeries of masters and passing them off as real. He thought he would prove he really was a great artist by making fakes by the masters (I don't buy that theory because I consider originality not wholesale imitation an essential quality of a being an artist. But that's what he thought). He forged other artists as well. 2) Most forgeries are confirmed by scientific testing (and the tests such as radiometric and x-ray testing of paints often definitively prove items fake), but the tests are done after suspicions arise from collectors, dealers and other experts. Even in the old days, the art community would talk to each other Net54-style and people would say certain things didn't look right.

Coincidental to this post, I'm working on a pamphlet on identifying antique commercial printing. Identifying printing is both a neat skill to have as hobbyist (can tell a friend that is an engraving and this is an etching), but is the big key to authenticating items such as posters and signs.

Lastly, I recently wrote a brief article on some of the science used in forgery detection. If you're interested. From carbon dating to the $9.99 black light. Some of the most advanced scientific techniques, including invented by Nobel Prize winners, are used to dating art and artifacts. A Physics Nobel Prize winner at University of Chicago did the first carbon dating of the dead sea scrolls and scientists can tell you when a long ago buried artifact was last exposed to sunlight (say, from burial site, an ancient city buried by lava or dating when an Egyptian tomb was sealed). But a collector holding up a card to the sunlight to check the 'see through' effect of the stock is a scientific test too, if more informal and less advanced . . . . And, as the article explains, everything has it's limits, even science in art authentication.

Last edited by drcy; 08-09-2014 at 01:53 PM.
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