Frans Hals: Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard Company (1627)
With Frans like These, Who Needs Enemies?
In an earlier blog post, “Honest Mistakes and Audacious Lies,” I quoted a New York Times article about incredible fakes in the world of “period furniture.” Once again, the professionals in the highest echelons of the art world have found themselves in a pickle.
Frans Hals’ Portrait of a Man, authenticated by Sotheby's and the Louvre and subsequently brokered to a private collector for about $10 million, has now been declared a modern forgery.
In fact, according to the New York Times, the fake is so good that other “new discoveries” sold by the same art dealer are now being questioned, while an eminent Dutch restorer of Hals’ paintings refuses to accept that Portrait of a Man is a fake. This is a major scandal in the art world.
To wish harm or embarrassment on the Louvre or Sotheby's is not the intent of this blog; rather my goal is to point out the intense challenges art experts face by the pluck and (dare I say it?) talent of master forgers.
When a Dutch restorer of nearly 30 of Hals’ works cannot tell a forgery from the real thing, it undermines the whole business of authenticating “new discoveries” of old masters.
Sotheby's is now publicly traded; reimbursement of the buyer's millions is only the beginning of the challenges the auction house faces as it tries to restore its reputation.
And fooling the Louvre? Oh, mon dieu!
For further reading on the art market see this article from Fortune Magazine
Image credit: The Athenaeum