The Famous Art Frauds – Part 1

Forging art is as old as art itself, and the term Art Forgery is described by Wikipedia as: The creation and selling of art which are falsely credited to other, usually more famous artists. Modern day authentication is much better now than it used to be which tends to make this sort of crime less popular than it once was. However, it can still be a very lucrative occupation and many talented forgers have replicated some of the most famous painting in the world. In this blog we expose some of the forgers and some of the works that they copied.

The Art Collector

There is nothing than can strike fear into a museum curator or art collector than the possibility their most prized piece of art is a forgery. Despite modern detection techniques the age-old crime of forgery is still going strong. The whole art world has been rife with duped collectors paying vast amounts of money for something that is basically a fake. Albeit, a clever and most artistic piece of work but nevertheless still fake.

Han van Meegeren

Van Meegeren was a highly talented artist who was disillusioned that his work was not getting the respect he judged that it deserved. He turned his talents to fraud, and developed a way of placing his Old Master-style paintings into an oven to bake them. By doing so he aged his new canvasses so that they looked hundreds of years older. It is estimated that this technique was so successful that he managed to scam over $60 million out of duped art collectors. It is even said that he daringly sold fake Vermeer’s to the Nazi leader Hermann Goring in the 1930’s and 40’s. At his trial, Van Meegeren actually painted a fake Vermeer to prove that he was not selling genuine priceless originals.

Unknown Forgers

One of the most recent discoveries of forged art since Van Meegeren was an unmasking of an Old Master forgery ring. Authorities have not caught the offenders and it is not clear how far the scam went, but the world-famous auction house Sotheby’s has already issued a $10 million refund for a Frans Hals portrait they sold in 2011. A Massachusetts detective company which specializes in art fraud was engaged to inspect the work. Martin’s Orion Analytical proved without doubt that modern day materials and paints where on the canvas. The unknown forgers are still to be brought to justice. The unearthed scam has placed implications of doubt on other paintings, which included a Lucas Cranach painting that was owned by the Prince of Liechtenstein, and a Parmigianino. There is an estimated possible 25 suspect works of art that are attributed to the same gang.

These forgeries are excellent works of art in their own right, the naked eyes of many experts from art dealers to the top auction houses could not differentiate these painting from the originals. It is therefore somebody who has great skill has painted them, and in a different life may have been Old Masters themselves.