_

crimes
motives
tools
neutrons
x-ray
brains
wanna buy this? .
Pity the poor art forger
With analytical techniques getting better every day, it's getting harder to pass off bogus art.

But the intrusion of high-tech into the art world also has a more benign side. In Rembrandt's time, studio heads routinely signed the work of apprentices. Nowadays, that would be considered fine-art fraud. Even if we can't accuse old masters of forgery for failing to follow today's ethos, we are still curious who actually brushed "their" canvases.

The results can be unsettling: After a long examination of paintings attributed to Rembrandt, the Netherlands Association for the Advancement of Pure Research found that at least half of them were not, in the modern sense, his work.

Has this quibbling stopped the thieves? Hardly.

The human dimension
Despite our emphasis on analytical technique, analyzing art fraud is not just a technical game. Gut instinct, wisdom and experience probably play an equal role in detecting fraud. Thomas Hoving, who directed the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, says some people have a visceral reaction to bogus art. He says art historian Bernard Berenson "was a natural fakebuster" who could sometimes only say "that his stomach felt wrong. He felt a curious ringing in his ears. He was struck by a momentary depression."

For his part, Hoving wrote that when he begins to suspect fakery, his "internal discussion" of a work can turn "obscene."

From the obscene to the obscure, The Why Files rounded up these art fraud, forgery and theft resources.


back more
.

The Why Files
.
There are 1 2 3 4 5 6 pages in this feature.
Bibliography | Credits | Feedback | Search

©1999, University of Wisconsin, Board of Regents.