Forgeries & Fakes from The Courtauld collection to go on display in new exhibition. - FAD Magazine

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Forgeries & Fakes from The Courtauld collection to go on display in new exhibition.

Remarkable forgeries originally thought to be masterpieces by artists including Sandro Botticelli, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, John Constable and Auguste Rodin will go on display at The Courtauld this summer, as part of a new display of fakes from its collection.

Umberto Giunti (1886 -1970), Forgery in the manner of Sandro BoJcelli (1444/1445 – 1510), Virgin and Child , 1920s, egg tempera on wood panel, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

Featuring around 25 drawings and 7 paintings, as well as sculpture and decorative art, from The Courtauld’s collection—many on public view for the first time—the display will tell the fascinating stories behind the creation of these works and the discovery of their deception.

Some known forgeries were given to The Courtauld, the first institution in the UK to teach art history and conservation, to help its students learn from them. Other works were the pride of the collectors who donated them to the Gallery, only to be later revealed as fakes through close looking, technical examination or research into their history.  

Forgery in the manner of John Constable (1776 – 1837), Seascape , watercolour, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

For example, the authenticity of a seascape allegedly painted by John Constable, which came to The Courtauld from the artist’s family, remained unquestioned until Courtauld experts discovered a watermark in the paper reading “184-”, indicating that it dated from the 1840s and therefore after the artist’s death in 1837.

Another striking forgery is a Virgin and Child, (as seen above) once thought to be a masterpiece by Botticelli but unmasked as a fake by the Virgin’s resemblance to a 1920s film star and the detection of modern pigments.

Jacob Savery I (1566 -1603), Forgery in the manner of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525/30 – 1569), Rocky landscape with a castle , around 1590, traces of black chalk, pen and brown ink, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

Fakes in art are nothing new: forgeries of drawings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder began appearing shortly after his death in 1569, in response to demand for his work. The display includes an elaborate example by Bruegel’s enterprising younger contemporary Jacob Savery.

Han van Meegeren (1889 – 1947), Forgery in the manner of Dirk van Baburen (c.1595 – 1624), The Procuress , around 1930, oil paint on canvas, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

The forgers themselves have become figures of notoriety: a Courtauld professor returned from service in the Second World War with a painting by Han van Meegeren, who famously went on trial for selling fake Vermeers to the Nazi elite. The infamous British forger Eric Hebborn is also represented, with a drawing he boasted about twice in his memoir. He further claimed that hundreds of his fakes in the style of masters such as Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck remain to be uncovered.

Art and Artifice: Fakes from the Collection, (Included with Gallery Entry),17th June to 8th October 2023, The Courtauld Gallery

Friends get free unlimited entry to The Courtauld Gallery and exhibitions including The Morgan Stanley Exhibition: Peter Doig, access to presale tickets, priority booking to selected events, discounts, exclusive events, advance notice of art history short courses and more. Become a Friend at courtauld.ac.uk/friends



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