Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

February 9 2017

Image of Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

Picture: Sotheby's

In her coverage of the new Sotheby's/Weiss Gallery lawsuit, Nina Siegal in the New York Times has a fascinating update on the case of the St Jerome once attributed to Parmigianino (above), after securing an interview with the vendor:

The sale price of the circle of Parmigianino work was $842,500, and Sotheby’s is demanding that Mr. de Saint Donat-Pourrières return the $672,000 profit he earned from the sale of the work, in keeping with the presale contract. He has so far refused to do so, saying that he is unconvinced by the scientific data provided by James Martin, who conducted the analysis for Sotheby’s.

“Nobody thought even once that it was a fake, nobody, nobody,” Mr. de Saint Donat-Pourrières said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “The best experts in the world have seen this painting over many years and nobody during that whole period thought it was a fake. Now, only Mr. Martin says that it’s a fake. Only him, nobody else. And all the other experts in the world are forgotten?”

Mr. Martin said that he took 21 paint samples from many different areas of the paint layer and found the 20th-century pigment throughout the work, including in areas of the painting that were never restored. “It’s a bit like taking the pulse of a corpse 21 times,” he said.

Update - Mr. de Saint Donat-Pourrières' defence does go straight to the heart of the matter for those involved. It must be really terrible to have unwittingly handled one of these alleged fakes. Imagine you are a dealer of many decades standing, well versed in how the Old Master market operates. You are presented with a painting, in Weiss' case the Hals, which has not only been 'accepted' by the relevant authorities as a Hals, but sung to the rafters by an institution like the Louvre. The picture had as clean a bill of health as it is possible to have. You buy it, find a buyer (in this case with Sotheby's help), and sell it. And then it all goes wrong. You, for the sin of only having bought the painting, are then faced with serious financial penalties. But the people who - arguably - really erred in all this, those who elevated the painting to the status of a Hals in the first place, face no sanction at all. Such are the risks art dealers face. I'm not saying there's anything bad about that - dealers in any commodity accept such risks, just as Sotheby's did, and acted on them. But in all this sad business we musn't lose sight of the unfortunate human consequences for those involved. 

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