‘Art crime of the century’

A glance through the Daily Mail online today proved surprisingly interesting as what is being called the ‘art crime of the century’ may have happened – and it may involve Orazio Gentileschi i.e. the father of my chosen 2000 word essay subject Artemesia! Incredibly a second article on the BBC website also spoke of an art crime which dates back to the theft in 2002 of two Van Gogh works – there is a separate blog for this but both have made for two very interesting reads!

The Daily Mail is not the most renowned of papers at the moment so I will be keeping an eye out to see if the story is reported in other newspapers for verification but it certainly seems creditable.

The article centres around a person who is being called the ‘Moriaty of fakers’ by one art dealer due to the supreme excellence of the forgeries and by this I mean the fakes are incredibly hard to spot such is the skill of the forger.    It seems earlier this year the Prince of Lichtenstein had a painting by Lucas Cranach seized by the French authorities at an exhibition in the south of France which is now being looked at y the experts at the Louvre due to suspicions it is in fact a fake and hence the scandal now ensuing started to come to light.

The work by Lucas Cranach is called Venus and dated 1531 and is linked to two other paintings –  An Unknown Man by Frans Hals and David with The Head of Goliath by Orazio Gentileschi both of which were purchased by a London dealer by the name of Mark Weiss.  The Frans Hals work was sold to a US collector who upon discovering the question marks over the Cranach work complained to Sotheby’s who had brokered what the Daily Mail terms the ‘private treaty’ sale.  Consequentially the Frans Hals work has turned out to be a fake and Sotheby’s were forced to reimburse the collector and now understandably are threatening legal action against the dealer with a view to recovering their losses.

The Gentileschi work was also sold to a US collector who lives in London and was on display at the National Gallery until recently and there is obviously a question mark over the authenticity now.

An internationally renowned dealer, Bob Haboldt has stated that it is believed that there is a ring of Italian forgers behind these Old Masters fakes with some already being interviewed by the French authorities – here I speak very personally and freely admit I would love to be a fly on the wall in those interviews!  Apparently the French dealer who is at the centre of this scandal, Giulano Ruffini, claimed he discovered a collection of these Old Masters but has later insisted he never sold any as the aforesaid ‘Old Masters’ and also insists on being a collector not an expert and thereby proclaiming his innocence in the matter.

Understandably the National Gallery has made a clear statement of doing research on any work loan to them as well as a technical examination but reading the article fully it would also be understandable if these forgeries are as expertly rendered as is said then I personally feel there is the possibility of one such fake slipping through the net but time will tell and in particular if the Orazio Gentileschi piece is examined further.

Whatever happens it does seem that there has not been a scandal of this nature since the 1940’s and now the art dealers of the world are on high alert and as is stated in the article buyers will now very understandably insist on more guarantees regarding these highly priced works.

It does not feel a ‘watch this space’ situation as I wonder if the scandal may yet yield further forgeries and I will be keeping watch for any news on the Orazio Gentileschi work.


Luck, A. 1 October 2016. ‘Moriarty of the Old Master’ pulls off the art crime of the century:  Market in crisis as experts warn £200m of paintings could be fakes [online] [Date Accessed: 2 October 2016].  Available from:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3817580/Moriarty-Old-Master-pulls-art-crime-century-Market-crisis-experts-warn-200m-paintings-fakes.html

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