Fakes are an incurable plague for the art market and though counter-measure techniques have been increasingly modernised since the second half of the 20th Century forgers have probably some more good years ahead of them.
Historically, forgers did not wait long to make use of their talents especially as the art trade started as early as the 4th century BC. During these times, Egypt and Greece were already exporting art objects and statues throughout the Mediterranean area. When Rome began to build up an empire most temples were already adorned with Greek statues and rich people then soon wished to also acquire some wonderful sculptures produced in Greece by the most skilled artists.
Greek statues were more and more in demand during the first Century BC and Roman merchants often experienced difficulties in supplying their customers. However, some of them found it more convenient to set up workshops in the city of Rome where they produced copies with the help of talented local artists. Such initiative enabled them to reduce import costs greatly and to avoid the risk of losing some of their treasured cargoes in sea accidents. Moreover, they contributed to promote a local industry which eventually freed itself from Greek influence.
There is however no need to say that many of these copies were eventually sold as genuine Greek works by some unscrupulous merchants who took advantage of the growing demand which lasted until at least 300 AD. Undoubtedly, many of these replicas were not meant to be sold as mere copies as long as the emergence of a specific Roman form of art was not in full gear.
Trade went on booming until it suffered a severe blow with the fall of the Roman Empire. Europe then faced a long period of insecurity in the midst of waves of Barbarian tribes continuously sweeping the continent during at least five long centuries.
THE RULE OF CHRISTIANITY
It was during these times that most countries gradually came under the influence of the Catholic religion which rejected pagan rites and images and imposed its art standards instead. Everything was thus turned towards Christian symbols though some artists came to take some daring liberties during the construction of churches. Today, people visiting certain cathedrals are baffled when they come across some incredible statues and reliefs that have more to do with lust than religion. Nevertheless, Christianity became the main driving force regarding the works of artists of the Middle Ages. In addition, many among them were monks as the Church was the only art creating centre and these artists were above all dedicated to working in churches carving statues or producing wall paintings and prayer books miniatures.
Being monopolised by the Church, the art trade thus suffered a 1000-year freeze until the end of the 14th Century when well-off families started to decorate their houses with statues and paintings. These however kept a strong religious meaning but many artists had started to develop their own personalities especially in Italy.
Already , during the 13th Century, some of them had come to leave their names to posterity but as far as the art trade was concerned things only evolved 200 years later.
A major factor in the development of art was the unearthing in Italy of Roman statues at the end of the 14th Century. Many artists were then subdued by these spectacular works of art which bore evidence of the existence of a previous highly-developed civilisation and they naturally came on to adapt their styles accordingly. This new awareness played a great part in the Renaissance movement process and drove many artists to some sort of general self-consciousness about their real abilities and talents. Consequently, they managed to free themselves further from the heavy tutelage of the Church put on them so far.
Monks found that their long-kept secrets in the field of art had become practically obsolete especially as the statues unearthed in several archaeological sites were there not only to confirm the existence but also the high degree of the sophisticated form of Roman culture. Such finds almost coincided with several changes in architecture and in painting which were to set new patterns.
Romanesque and gothic stylistic forms and letters soon became out of fashion while scores of artists went on to reach fame as from during the second half of the 15th Century. They not only worked for the Church but also for many European royal and princely courts as well as some rich merchants and bankers, firstly in Italy then in France, England, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Flanders.
And the art trade came back to life as soon as artists like Mantegna, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael,
Michelangelo or Albrecht Dürer became famous throughout Europe. And naturally, forgeries appeared on the market.
One of the most famous forgers was Michelangelo himself who as a young student found amusing to make a copy of a Roman statuette showing Cupid asleep. He eventually sold it to a cardinal as a genuine antique piece but could not prevent himself from boasting about his trick. As a result on learning that he had been fooled the cardinal got infuriated and destroyed the statuette. One can easily imagine that such fake, as any Renaissance copy of a Roman or Greek work of art and albeit the fact that it was made by such a great artist, would today be worth a little fortune on the market.
Many copies of antique marble statues were made as early as 1500 as proved in a letter sent by the banker Jakob Fugger to his agent in Italy asking him to be cautious when buying sculptures for his Antiquarium in Munich. Albrecht Dürer was much copied during his lifetime and it is known that he often used to complain about those forgers who were going as far as to use his initials on bad copies. In one of his engravings relating to the life of the Virgin, the German master added the following inscription :
"Be cursed , plunderers and imitators of the work and talent of others". In fact, the reputation of some Italian, Flemish, German and Dutch masters had reached such level throughout Europe that many artists simply came under their influence. Some 500 years later it is difficult to say whether some of the lesser-known painters had either adopted their styles or tried to make copies to earn a living. It is even sometimes impossible to determine whether a painting or a sculpture was really produced by such or such master or by a pupil who became as much, if not more, notorious in the history of painting. Scores of masters were copied throughout the 16th Century mostly by their pupils who needed stylistic references as part of their training. Michelangelo himself often produced replicas of the drawings of Ghirlandajo who on seeing them thought they were from his own hand. Hendrik Goltzius, another great master, produced copies of the works of other legendary artists just to prove his talent.
As a matter of fact, forgeries were already under way as the main patrons of these masters were rich ruling dynasties, princes, dukes and other noble families as well as merchants and bankers who would pay huge sums of money to acquire their best works and some unscrupulous dealers took advantage of a growing demand from these customers to provide them with forgeries, notably drawings. Some of these masters and certain collectors even wanted to keep some of the pieces they most treasured and instead of turning down certain requests made by their customers they did not hesitate to trick them in supplying copies. This happened with the Count of Cantecroix, the ambassador of Emperor Rudolph II who cheated the latter who wanted to acquire a painting by Dürer from him. The Count offered him a copy instead but the Emperor discovered the trick and put an abrupt end to his mission. A few years later, the Emperor managed to buy the original.
Sometimes artists had to please rival customers regarding one precise masterpiece and in order to avoid trouble they preferred to sell the original to one and its replica to the other. All the more, some princes ordered copies to ornate their different palaces. Most masters had pupils working in their studios and for a start they produced copies before reaching the status of assistant. In addition, during the 17th Century, certain great painters such as Rubens, Van Dyck or Teniers went on to copy Renaissance masters just for sheer pleasure while several kings and nobles were content to obtain replicas of original works they did not manage to acquire from them. In addition, painting was often a family business which lasted over several generations between the 16th and 18th Centuries. Naturally such business generated copies within these families.
The Brueghel family, spearheaded by Pieter the Elder during the 16th Century, was pobably the most famous and is surely the best example to set forth regarding copies. Brueghel's son, also named Pieter, went on to produce scores of replicas of his works while his other sons and next of kin made their names through genre or still-life paintings which often looked alike over more than 75 years.
There were thus countless tribes of artists (Pourbus, Francken, Heemskeerk, Teniers and so on) that flourished sometime during more than a hundred years as from 1560 especially in the Netherlands and Flanders. Meanwhile, collecting became increasingly popular during the 17th Century as kings like Philip II of Spain, Charles I of England and Louis XIV of France amassed hoards of works of art in their palaces. Otherwise, there were however not many dealers among whom some of them carried out other activities which had little to do with the art trade.
Art galleries were scarce until 1720 and it was from England that the trade reached a more interesting level during the 18th Century when young lords took a habit of embarking on a grand tour of Italy and Greece during which they were visiting archaeological sites and bringing souvenirs back home.
It was during the second half of that century that James Christie inaugurated in London the first true auction house since Roman times soon to be followed by Sotheby's.
England then becamethe main art trading centre especially during the course of the FrenchRevolution for the simple reason that revolutionary leaders did not caremuch about art since the country faced the danger of a Prussian or Austrianinvasion. Therefore, their priority was to find money to supply their armieswith guns, rifles, uniforms, horses and food. Thus, they deprived mostnobles of their possessions and emptied all royal palaces of their contentswhich were sold in auction sales attended mostly by British buyers or theiragents. For example, the contents of the Versailles palace were dispersedover a three-month period of almost uninterrupted sales.
Many French treasurepieces found their way to England over more than 10 years before Napoleonstopped the haemorrhage and greatly compensated for it by sending his armiesto plunder Italy of many of its main works of art in order to fill thenewly-created Louvre Museum.
A NEW BREEDOF COLLECTORS
Museums were setup in several European countries throughout the last quarter of the 18thand the first quarter of the 19th Centuries and did much topromote the understanding of art. Kings, princes and nobles were no longerthe main collectors and were progressively replaced by those who had benefitedfrom the ongoing industrial revolution. Industrialists, merchants and bankerswere also prone to buy fine art pieces. The press also had a certain impacton collectors especially as Salons came under the close scrutiny of artcritics in the early years of the 19th Century. Such attentiondid much for the reputation of many painters, notably Constable, Turner,Gericault, Delacroix or Ingres who were to have a deep influence over thenew schools of painting which emerged after 1870.
So far, collectorshad not been too much troubled by the problem of fakes as the market wasstill small in comparison with that of today. However, it must be rememberedthat as soon as 1760 hundreds of copies made by the numerous followersof several 17th Century masters had been circulating throughoutEurope as a result of a growing demand among upper and even middle classpeople. Such habit of copying was perpetuated almost throughout the 19thCentury and it happened quite often that some superb copies were mistakenlyclassified as genuine. A painting like "The Studio" by Vermeer,who was unknown during the first part of the 19th Century, bore
for a long time theforged signature of Pieter de Hooch who was much sought by collectors around1850. Meanwhile, dozens of faked Frans Hals and Greco paintings had appearedon the market as early as the 18th Century.
With the rediscoveryof Medieval art and architecture, many artists and craftsmen went on toproduce Gothic styled furniture, tapestries and objects between 1820 and1860. Some of them tried to bring a touch as much realistic as possibleto their creations sometimes to such a point that specialists happenedto be fooled.
The new breed ofart specialists whom we know now as experts started to be truly operationalonly after 1850. They were above all historians or museum curators whowrote books and studies about painting and other art forms. Most of themstrove to do their best in their respective fields but communication waspoor between them and they often made mistakes because they had not thetechnological means that the experts of today are supposed to use.
As a result, thesespecialists were not fully prepared to carry out the huge tasks confrontingthem. There were already books and catalogues before 1900 but these werenot so well-documented while much pioneer work was being done in the fieldof art.
At the same time,tourism in Italy became much popular and certain dealers there realisedthat they could make some easy money by selling fakes to many rich visitorswho could not tell the difference between a true 16th Centurypainting and a copy.
Art dealers becamemore active after 1870 and they too were considered as experts though thoseselling Impressionist paintings were not yet troubled with fakes sinceonly a few discerning people had banked on works by Manet, Monet, Sisley,Renoir, Pissarro or Degas. Other schools however were the target of forgers.Already in 1875, there were thousands of copies of Corot's paintings onthe market not to mention that Corot himself had put his signature on manyof those works that were submitted to him apparently because he felt honouredto be copied. One of Corot's imitators was Paul Désiré Trouillebertwho was himself a good Barbizon painter.
With the triumphof the industrial revolution in Europe copies mushroomed everywhere andin all fields. There were pieces of furniture, Greek and Roman artefacts,medieval miniatures, glass, armours and bronze sculptures so well reproducedthat many experts were at a loss when asked to give an opinion about these. By the year 1875,there were thus numerous forgers throughout Europe but many among themplayed more or less a game to baffle specialists rather than seeking tomake a lucrative business just like Michelangelo did in fooling this stupidcardinal. Some of these forgers were certainly more than thrilled to misleadsome well-known collectors or museum officials, the most incredible storyin the last part of the 19th Century being the purchase by theLouvre Museum of a Scythian gold tiara of circa 500 BC which had fact hadjust been made by a goldsmith full of genius named Rouchomovsky who livedin Odessa. When they were first told that they had been cheated the Louvreofficials found the story most amusing and when Rouchomovsky came to Paristo prove his claim, they first laughed at him. Some months later they werein complete disarray in the face of indisputable evidence while the presswent on to gloat much about the scandal.
Nevertheless, themarket remained small until the First World War and copies were not yetconsidered as a major issue. One quite intricate problem already concernedbronze sculptures and notably recasts. Today, one needs an eagle's eyeto tell the difference between an animalier bronze sculpture made by Baryehimself during the 1840's and a replica made 50 years later which wouldbe worth twice as less.
Barye himself wasa founder beside being a sculptor but he went bankrupt and his works werecast in another foundry before the Barbedienne firm acquired the artist'scopyrights just after his death. Similar problems regarding scores of othersculptors arose before 1914 while some liberties were taken with severalartists , notably Daumier and Degas, who had limited themselves to makingplaster or wax pieces. It seems important to stress that Daumier's andDegas' bronzes only appeared on the market during the 1920's while mostfounders did not bother to put a date on their casts. As a result, it isoften difficult to determine whether a Barbedienne, a Siot, a Susse orany other founder's cast of a bronze sculpture by Barye, Fremiet, Mèneor else was made in 1875 or 1920.
Worse, when copyrightsfor these artist were no longer protected several French founders did nothesitate to make replicas during the early 1980's to the effect that pricesfor bronzes fell down. In Italy a few foundries in Florence have made aspeciality of producing fine antique copies sold as such but some peoplehave been suspected of having gone further in the process of transformingcertain copies so as to sell them as genuine.
Modern bronzes havebeen cast in such quantities that it is hard to verify their exact production. Even some numbered series have been duplicated well above their seriallimitation , notably casts by Dali which were produced after his death.In addition, certain moulds regarding other artists were not destroyedas provided by the legislation notably in France when a number of foundries,especially Valsuani, went bankrupt. These moulds were ideally instrumentalin the production of new casts and the fraud was not easy to detect. Thishappened with bronze tables and fittings by Diego Giacometti which flowedonto the market at the end of the 1980's before the owner of the foundryresponsible for the forgeries was arrested.
According to Frenchlaws, a bronze cast during the lifetime of an artist is considered as anoriginal work of art though it comes itself from a mould deriving froma plaster model. However, copyrights last 70 years after the death of anartist and his heirs have the right to produce new bronzes. One must notforget that founders like Susse, Barbedienne, Siot and others continuedfor years to reproduce the works of artists who were no longer under theprotection of copyrights. Strangely enough, an official institution likethe Rodin Museum has been issuing casts made less than a decade ago whereasthe artist disappeared in 1917. One should note that there is an enormousdifference between a Rodin bronze made before his death and a ten or twenty-yearold cast bearing the Museum's label . The problem is that there are notmany collectors who know that a Rodin cast by Rudier or Barbedienne 100years ago is worth the money paid for it while a Museum cast should beconsidered as a mere copy. Still, such practice has not been vigorouslycondemned yet.
Ironically, the RodinMuseum has been named as plaintiff in a court case regarding the biggestfraud of the century.
On January 17th1997, Guy Hain, a well-known bronze dealer appeared before a court in Lure,central France, under the accusation of having produced thousands of fakedsculptures eventually sold as originals by Rodin, Renoir, Maillol, CamilleClaudel, Carpeaux, Barye, Fremiet, Mène and other sculptors.
Guy Hain, who usedto run a shop in the plush Louvre des Antiquaires centrein Paris, found the making of forgeries probably more lucrative than hisbusiness when the art market became one of the main targets for speculatorsbetween 1987 and 1991.
His main idea wasto approach the Rudier foundry which had been in charge of producing Rodin'sbronze at the turn of the century and convince Georges Rudier and eventuallyhis son Bernard, the grand-nephew of Eugène Rudier , the exclusivefounder of Rodin and lately of the Rodin Museum who had succeeded his fatherAlexis , to use original moulds to make recasts so well achieved that mostexperts would have been fooled.
Banking on the nameand reputation of Rudier, Hain went on to trick auctioneers, dealers andexperts throughout the world by going as far as replacing Georges' signatureby that, more prestigious, of Alexis. Consequently, thousands of fakesappeared on the market and certain pieces were sold at record prices.
Hain sold forgeriesfor an estimated total of 25 million dollars before a police inspectorfrom Dijon, Burgundy, who had just dismantled the trafficking of fake Giacomettibronzes, put a stop to his illegal business in January 1992.
At least 20,000 kilosof bronze sculptures were seized in various foundries in Burgundy and outsideParis while two auctioneers in the town of Rambouillet were charged withcomplicity for having sold hundreds of forged pieces in several auctions.
Most forgeries wereproduced with the help of original moulds from the Rudier foundry as wellas from plaster copies made as duplicates for the production of bronzecasts some 75 or 90 years ago. With such methods, it was hard, and sometimesimpossible, to detect these forgeries.
The Georges Rudierstamp usually found on old casts was often erased and replaced with theAlexis Rudier signature while copies of different sizes were made regardingthe "Eternal Spring", "Balzac naked ", "The Kiss" , "The Bronze Age","The Thinking Man " and "Ratapoil" by Rodin as well as a maternityby Renoir, the "Causeuses" by Claudel and several other sculpturesby Barye or Mène.
Between 1987 and1991, the Rambouillet auctioneers sold forgeries for almost three milliondollars notably sculptures bearing the signatures of Barye, Mène,Fratin and Rodin. An imposing bronze of "The Kiss" by thelatter was notably sold for 4,2 million francs (US $ 800,000 ) in Rambouilletwhile a big size of the "Bronze Age" fetched 3,5 millionfrancs (US $ 700,000) in Paris in 1989.
Many other auctioneers,including Christie's and Sotheby's have sold such fakes on the market andthough they cannot be suspected of having lent a hand to the fraud thecompetencies of their experts might at least be seriously challenged.
The scandal is sohuge that it has dealt a severe blow to the bronze market and many collectorshave given up their passion as a result of their disgust. This happenedwith Alain Delon, the famous French actor, who got rid of his collectionof Rembrandt Bugatti bronzes after suspecting that many of his treasuredpieces were forgeries.
Now the market haseven been more wrecked since hundreds of copies, notably French animalierbronzes and also works after the American artist Frederick Remington havebeen made at low costs and introduced onto the market from Taiwan or south-eastAsia since the early 90's.
Regarding marblesculptures, many fakes were detected during the middle of the 19thCentury, notably Renaissance statues which in fact had been made by GiovanniBastianini (1830-1868) who created some superb pieces which were eventuallybought as genuine by the Louvre and the Victoria and Albert museums. Specialistsnever suspected the trick which was in fact revealed by a jealous dealer.
LOADS OF FORGEDPAINTINGS
Back to paintings,the market underwent after World War One a complete facelift as soon asImpressionist works became popular. Moreover modern art, through Cubism,made its revolution and new customers appeared on the scene.
Several artists suchas Van Gogh, Gauguin, Manet, Sisley, Cézanne and Renoir reachedfame after their deaths and were therefore much copied.
However, it was inthe wrath of World War Two that forgers became extensively busy. As soonas the Germans invaded a large part of Europe, Nazi leaders enacted a planto plunder several collections belonging to their political opponents andJewish families. All the more , they claimed all works of art which wereallegedly part of the German patrimony. One of the main Nazi leaders involvedin the plunders was Marshall Goering who formed collection of old masters'paintings.
Goering was interestedin masterpieces and was told one day that he could have some remarkablepaintings by Vermeer in Holland. The Nazi leader went on to buy one ofthem, Mary-Magdalene washing the feet of Christ, from a certain Hans VanMeegeren. In the 1930's, several experts, including Bredius, the best specialistfor Vermeer's works, had said they had no doubts about the authenticityof this work and others including the "Pilgrims" which wasto be bought by the Boymans museum of Rotterdam.
At the end of thewar, Van Meegeren was arrested on charges of having been involved in collaborationistactivities with the Germans. While in prison, Van Meegeren baffled allspecialists on confessing that he had in fact forged pictures certifiedas by Vermeer sold to Goering and the Boymans museum as well as to othercollectors.
Suffering from beingconsidered as an obscure artist, the forger told investigators that foolingexperts had been for him some kind of sweet revenge. He added that it hadbeen quite exciting to ridicule art critics who had scorned his own works.
Strangely enoughthe war did not affect the art market much especially in occupied Pariswhere trade blossomed despite economic restrictions. With the return ofpeace, the French capital became the main art trade centre while the UnitedStates was just seeing the emergence of its modern school of painters.
Picasso, Braque,Matisse, Miro, Dali were at their heights and scores of books and catalogueswere being published as part of a recognition of their works. From thenon, the market was in constant development. In the late sixties forgersbecame busier than ever, notably David Stein and Real Lessart. The formerbeing specialised in fake Chagall, Picasso, Dufy and post - impressionistpaintings, the latter working for an agent called Fernand Legros who wasselling his production with forged certificates. A former ballet dancer,Legros fooled a few rich American magnates, including Arthur Meadows, theowner of the General American Oil Co. in Texas.
Legros once useda subtle stratagem on entering American territory. When asked by U.S customswhat was in his luggage, Legros used to explain that the paintings he wasbringing were merely copies. Eager to verify, U.S customs officials wouldcall upon art experts to determine whether Legros was not trying to cheatthem and driven by such suspicion , these specialists concluded that thesepaintings were in fact genuine. Unmoved by the fine mposed on him Legroswould then further impress his customers by showing them the U.S customsdocuments proving the authenticity of the works he was selling .
David Stein, whohad managed one day to have a forged Picasso authenticated by the masterhimself, was arrested after Marc Chagall fell upon a forged painting exhibitedin a New York Gallery. He later started a career as a painter after servinga prison term.
Legros, who had RealLessart and an Hungarian named Elmyr de Hory working for him, was arraigneda few years later and jailed for a while. He who lived like a prince endedhis life in misery and died from a throat cancer.
Elmyr de Hory, wholived on the island of Ibiza, made hundreds of forgeries including workssigned Van Dongen. The Dutch artist , apparently in need of money at theend of his lif, endorsed more than once the paternity of such fakes whichwere sold by Legros.
In the 1960's certainartists repudiated some of their own works probably because they felt somedissatisfaction about their quality or about the low prices at which thesewere sold. This was notably the case with the Italian master Giorgio deChirico who was charged in 1969 for having seized some of his sculpturesas forgeries whereas he had signed a legal contract for their production.Another master, Maurice de Vlaminck refused to authenticate some of hisown works simply because he did not like them anymore. He also was chargedand received a fine for having rejected a painting which was in fact genuine.
In England, manyexperts were destabilised by the Keating scandal in the 1970's. Tom Keatinghad made a speciality of producing forged water-colours by Samuel Palmeror oil paintings by Flemish, Dutch , English and French old masters.
Keating , who camefrom a poor family, failed to reach fame and therefore wanted to avengehimself by producing forgeries of all sorts, oil paintings and drawingswhich were to be certified as genuine works by Gainsborough, Degas, Boucher,Fragonard, Renoir, Modigliani and Van Dongen notably. The poet Jean Cocteau,who was the friend of many famous artists, produced hundreds of drawingsduring his lifetime. These drawings being so easy to copy, there have beenmore forgeries than originals on the market during the past ten years.
Other forgeries havebeen produced regarding Van Gogh, Boudin, Stanislas Lépine, Vuillard,Matisse, Fernand Léger, Georges Braque, Maurice Utrillo, GeorgesRouault, Jean-Michel Atlan, Michel Basquiat, Franz Kline, Marie Laurencin,André Lhote, Serge Poliakoff, de Staël, Karel Appel, GiorgioMorandi, Chaïm Soutine, Modigliani, Pignon, Signac, Bernard Buffet,Malevich, Tatlin and scores of well-known artists in France, Italy, Britain,the U.S or Russia notably.
As a result, it hasbeen estimated that over 15% of paintings sold throughout the world werefakes. Forgeries have beendetected in numbers in the field of engravings, notably modern lithographs,the biggest scandal concerning works by Dali printed in record quantities.It has been estimated that some 100,000 lithographs bearing the signatureof the Spanish Surrealist artist have been sold throughout the world duringthe past 15 years.
The scandal did notcease after Dali's death and despite the seizure of some 10,000 illicitprints in Hawaii, a Court there took an incredible decision in February1996 declaring that these could be sold to the public as copies - presumablyto cover some of the judicial costs- instead of ordering their destruction.
On a smaller scale,the prints of several other well-known artists were forged or a least multipliedbeyond the authorised quantities. Hundreds of prints by Miro - who wasnot really an engraver himself- were sold as genuine in Scandinavia andother parts of Europe. This proved quite a lucrative business since someoriginals were sold at least at US $ 40,000 a piece by Maeght, the artpublisher which was producing Miro's prints. In fact, the firm itself tooka rather exaggerated attitude in selling those prints at huge prices whereasthese were basically only photo-lithographs heightened with colours.
Forgeries were lessfrequent regarding old masters except for some artists like Dürerwho were much copied during their lifetime. The only problem is to determinewhether a printed sheet is an original or a reprint.
Another big problemhas arisen with photography a domain which has been freshly booming especiallyregarding modern photographers. It has been quite difficult for expertsto sift through originals and reprints. Knowing the value of a photo byMan Ray or Ansell Adams it is rather nerve racking to buy safely.
Regarding ceramicsand porcelains, there were problems with Chinese pieces which used to beproduced over several decades with old markings which could baffle expertswhen they had to determine the period of their fabrication. With Europeanpieces, there have been more difficulties especially with 19thCentury copies of French, Italian and German porcelains and ceramics.
As for watches andclocks, forgeries appeared as early as the 18th Century whensome great makers from England and France became much copied. Many forgedBreguet watches were on the market during Napoleonic times. As for 20thCentury watches, Cartier, Rolex and Patek-Philippe pieces have been reproducedin quantities. Some Cartier watches have been sold recently at over US$ 50,000 a piece with an original movement fitted in a forged 1935 casemanufactured in Switzerland. All the more, poor copies have been circulatingin south-east Asia since the late 1980's. Otherwise, many 16thand 17th Century clocks were modernised between 1720 and 1850and are worth much less than original pieces on the market.
Some vintage carshave been so much transformed that these are sometimes considered as forgeries.Regarding coins, notably Roman and Greek, as well as medals, forgerieshave been increasingly circulating for over 100 years.
Glass forgeries werescarce until the craze for Art Nouveau and Art Deco vases and lamps byGallé, Daum and other famous manufactures. These pieces were completelyneglected in the 1970's but a few years later prices on the market wentskyrocketing. Buyers from the U.S and Japan became crazy about Art Nouveauand Art Deco and the demand was such that the rise in prices seemed tobe unending. But forgeries found their way on the market. Mostly producedin Romania , these were imported in France and sold as genuine. The Gulfwar in 1991 as well as a growing suspicion concerning the authenticityof many pieces had a negative effect on the market.
Japanese buyers nolonger played a major part in the field of Art Nouveau and Art Deco andprices went down to pre-1986 levels.
Furniture were muchcopied during the 18th Century after makers took a habit ofputting their marks on their productions. However, furniture pieces weremore sought for furnishing purposes and did not attract speculators asduring the 20th Century. During the early eighties, dozens ofmakers' marks were sold at auction in Drouot and some prestigious labelswere bought by certain dealers who used them unscrupulously afterwards.
Around 1910, AndréMailfert a furniture-maker in Orleans, embarked on the production of hundredsof copies which found their way as genuine pieces on the other side ofthe Atlantic.
"Everythingis nothing but illusion and illusion is a true happiness in life",Mailfert wrote in a book which caused sensation in 1935.
Mailfert startedhis business with a little workforce and went on to promote an incredibleindustry of copies with more than 250 people working in his Orleans workshopand scores of cabinets, commodes, chest of drawers, chairs, armchairs andmirrors made with bits and pieces dating back to the 19th Centurywere eventually sold as genuine.
Mailfert used allsorts of tricks to make his furniture look old with ultra-violet rays todiscolour the wood, electric motors with flexible transmissions to drillextraordinary worm holes, powerful compressors to throw fly dejection mattersand cold and hot air blowers to provoke well-chosen cracks.
"There aretwo kinds of people in society, those who trick others and... others, "he said ironically while confessing that he had fooled thousands of so-calledconnoisseurs. Mailfert 's productionhas remained unequalled in terms of quantities but some other antique dealersmanaged to surpass him regarding quality notably in Paris in the 1980'swhen at least three of them were charged for selling well-made forgeries. The easiest wayto make forgeries was to copy Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces of furnitureas there was little differences between modern techniques and those usedby creators at the turn of the Century. Hundreds of well-manufactured lacqueredcommodes, wardrobes, tables, chairs and armchairs have been mistaken asworks by Ruhlmann, Majorelle, Printz, Jansen and other makers.
Now, concerning manuscriptscollectors have had to show caution more than once. Some gifted forgersin fact managed to imitate the signature and writing of many celebrities.One of the biggest scandal over 15 years ago was about the Hitler's memoirswhich suddenly appeared in Germany. There were several note-books all producedby some genius who cheated top experts and who had the rare pleasure ofseeing them published in the respected Der Spiegel magazine.
As a conclusion,the existence of forgeries has proved that most people are likely to bemistaken and that the judging a work of art is after all not an easy task.Forgeries have had therefore a significant impact on the market as theyhave often alienated the attitudes of most experts whose main anguish hasbeen to avoid misjudgements. As any human being, experts are guilty oflapses especially when it comes to decide of the authenticity of a piecebut the pernicious idea of being fooled sometimes leads them to delivererwrong opinions. As a result, genuine works have been classified as fakesbut on the other hand forgeries have also been authenticated as originals...