Art Forgery: The History of a Modern Obsession
The obsession with art forgery appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon. In Art Forgery, the author's aim is not to suggest new methods of ... Show synopsis The obsession with art forgery appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon. In Art Forgery, the author's aim is not to suggest new methods of detection, but rather to look at the genealogy of faking and to interrogate the anxious, sometimes neurotic, reactions triggered in the modern world of art by these clever frauds. Thierry Lenain considers the idea of authenticity in the Middle Ages, when the issue of false relics and miracles often arose: if a relic gave rise to a cult, it would be considered as genuine even if it had evidently been 'forged'. Similarly, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were comparatively untroubled by the idea of forgery. The book charts the changing status of art forgery from the time of its appearance in the Renaissance, when it was initially hailed as a true artistic feat, to its condemnation as the art crime par excellence. The Renaissance admired the masterly art of simulating stylistic expression and signs of age in artworks. Michelangelo, the most revered artist of the time, used to make deceitful copies of drawings by other masters, which he managed to have lent to himself by unsuspecting collectors, only to keep the originals and return the copies in their place. With the advent in the twentieth century of more scientific attribution, of archaeology, graphology, medical science and, later, criminology, the detection of forgery became increasingly possible. The science of accurately deciphering the artist's characteristic traces has since reached a level of forensic sophistication only matched by the forger's skill and the art world's paranoia. Thierry Lenain examines the work of master forgers including Eric Hebborn, Thomas Keating and Han van Meegeren whose productions baffled the art world.