• Erika Argiolas


The figure of the forger, the moment of production, how to identify, examples of art forgery.

Nowadays we all know - for good or bad - what a forger or fake author is. Works of art made with such skill as to be totally similar to the original piece. It is therefore a copy created with such capabilities as not to arouse any suspicion to its originality.

But what lies behind the figure of the forger? And what are the reasons for making copies of authentic paintings?

It is essential in this regard to know that the forger has no intention of mastering the technique of the model he is imitating in order to improve as an artist, but on the contrary he seeks the cancellation in the technique of the imitated model itself, and there are many reasons:

  1. The big money-making in the sale of these pieces;

  2. An extreme forger's revenge against critics who have not recognized its technical originality in terms of artistic production;

  3. A strong fury towards the artists of the past who - unlike them - had success and luck.

Therefore, the forger is characterized by typical and common psychologies: he is a #capable #artist with #great skills, he has technically "a good hand", but this is not enough to make him original and acclaimed by the crowd, that's why he is considered a #unsuccesful #artist.

The #financial factor has a great responsibility within the birth of this reality and we can say that it all began in Siena in the early 1800s. Siena at that time was identified as a depressed area unlike previous centuries when it swarmed with bankers and was known as Medieval Pompeii. Siena became the world capital of forgery, both integral and partial. In this city, inside an Academy, hundreds of Madonnas in #Lorenzetti style were found. This discovery gave light to a shocking truth: the teachers of this Academy lived for a century painting Madonnas of the Trecento Sienese, selling them at amazing prices, thanks to the help of people connected to antiques sellers, passing them off as works actually made in the fourteenth century. These fakes thus also became part of large collections or were even sold abroad, making the entire nineteenth-century Sienese economy based entirely on profits obtained from the sale of fakes.

But what is the best time to produce a fake for the forger?

The best time for the forger to produce is when art criticism brings to light the interest in a particular painting, thus increasing the #value of the work itself and consequently creating #collectionists' unstoppable desire in wanting to appropriate that precise piece, to be able to insert it accordingly in their #collection.

A clear example can be that of Piero della Francesca, of whom no one was interested between the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries; in fact, his fame grew up in the Nineteenth century, when art criticism began to prepare the ground for studies and for the enhancement of his works of art. It is at this moment that the forger takes action, supported by a favorable situation in the relationship between supply and demand in the market, as collectors greedy in the acquisition of his painting, were willing to spend a large amount of money to be able to acquire it, at least one. If in fact the requested paintings are more than those offered, this gap is filled with production of fakes.

So is it possible to identify a fake?

Absolutely yes! It will be true that the forger copies the work with great mastery and technical ability, but in the act of making the painting is still influenced by the perception - that the forger has of his time: in the forgeries of Piero della Francesca for example, the copies betray the mentality of the Nineteenth century author. In fact, as the philosopher #Husserl said "artists and men of all ages see differently, because their #perception is #conditioned by the Era in which they live".

Two supporting examples

An example of this conditioned perception that Husserl talks about can be found in this art forgery author created in 1930s. Perhaps an inexperienced eye would not notice it - the painting represents a #ancient #woman, XIII century clothes and the her face, the colors and the techniques used don't seem to be from the twentieth century, so why do we have to doubt about it? But these are the years of publications on the Fourteenth italian century and for the realization of this piece were taken as models some paintings by #Simone #Martini, mimicking the face and the dress here and there. Except that, after a more careful observation of the background of this copy, you realize that the one represented is a typical element of De #Chirico's paintings in perfect De Chirico style: the #aqueduct.

Another striking example we can talk about is the question about Han Van #Meegeren, Dutch painter and #portraitist considered one of the most skilled and expert #forger of the twentieth century. His story is exceptional and compelling, crowned with a certain amount of revenge if we want to define it that way. Like any forger, considered a failure from an early age, he learned the techniques of forgery from Theo Van #Wijngaarden, a famous restorer and forger who worked in Amsterdam at the time. Meergeren was completely bewitched and fascinated by Dutch #painting of the Seventeenth century and in particular by Vermeer, so much that he devoted his body and soul to the study and faithful copying the originals. In this way he not only mastered his techniques but also what we would call the spirit of #Vermeer. Not only did he become a master in the reproduction of his still lifes, draperies and interiors typical of the original author but he also engaged in the search for old canvases of the Seventeenth century without artistic value from which he scraped away the color in order to create his paintings on them . The most interesting thing is that in the reproduction of Veermer's style, he never made the mistake of reproducing his existing works, but always made new paintings, never seen before, which adhered completely to the style and themes of the original artist, managing to deceive the opinion of the critics who every time believed - amazed - to find themselves in front of exceptional masterpieces that would enrich the scenario of the history of art.

In the realization of these pieces, however, his great skill was not enough, but the great deal was his foresight in using materials that had been used three hundred years earlier. Meegeren would never have made the mistake of using brushes produced in the Twentieth century, for example, since the touch in the painting would have been different. He made use of powder into the fake painting, in order to cause what is known as craquelure - small cracks typical of aged oil paintings. He also made use of the rare #pigment #blue #overseas obtained from precious #lapis #lazuli and of #lilac oil, materials and techniques used by Vermeer.

Meegeren even managed to deceive Abraham Bredius, the greatest luminary of ancient Dutch painting who had defined the #Supper at #Emmaus - created by this skilled forger inspired by the work of #Caravaggio - one of the most exceptional paintings made by Vermeer. So, Meegeren became rich through #fraud, but mainly his was an act of revenge against those who did not appreciate his skills as a painter.

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