April 27, 2012 in Videos, Museums, and more Resources
Whilst it might not quite be the oldest profession in the world (we won’t go into that), the forgery and reproduction of artworks has been going on for more than two thousand years. The Romans, for example, assiduously copied classical Greek sculptures and sold them on as originals. Even the luminaries of the art world such as Michelangelo, Reubens and Pieter Breughel the Younger are reputed to have been involved in a little ‘creative copying’ at some point in their careers.
These days art counterfeiting techniques have become extremely sophisticated, and sometimes even reputable art museums and galleries are caught out. Arguably the best way to avoid falling fouls of a forger of paintings is to become intimately acquainted with the techniques of your preferred artist; not just their materials, technique and signature but also their range of subject matter, typical framing and any distinguishing features that might be found on the reverse of the canvas or frame.
Amateur art enthusiasts may find an illuminated microscope a good investment or at least a powerful magnifying glass of some description, but even if you’re a relatively uninitiated art purchaser there are often tell-tale signs that may help you to spot a forged painting.
Clues that help you spot a forged painting
Whist this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few of the mistakes that an art forger might make and suggest that a painting is not an artist’s original work:
- Inconsistencies in the artist’s signature – does the signature look somehow ‘fresher’ or more recent than the rest of the painting? And how does it compare with the signature that appears on works that you know to be genuine? A lack of confidence in applying the signature (i.e. when it’s done by someone other than the original artist) can make the signature appear shaky or forced rather than spontaneous and fluid as you would expect.
- Look for signs of artificial ageing – a painting can be made to look older than it is by applying a fine coat of yellow varnish and even adding dust to the layer to enhance ‘authenticity’. The painting’s frame may be artificially distressed or stained and aged-looking labels may be applied to the reverse of the painting.
- Check the appearance of the frame – if it’s claimed that the frame is original, check the joints. A frame of the correct age may have been cut to size and applied to a counterfeit painting. Often it can be difficult to fully disguise where the older frame has been cut; do the joints look original or is there a suggestion that they might have been cut more recently?
- Look for indentations or rust marks – visible marks left behind on a painting from nails or other mounting methods may indicate that the painting has, at the very least, been removed from its original frame.
- Examine the edges and borders – if an unframed canvas has suspiciously straight and neatly cut edges it may mean that a larger painting has been trimmed to size, or that the painting is a mechanically-finished reproduction.
The Enid Hutt Gallery sells artwork from contemporary living artists including Alexander Millar prints
The place where every glass is handmade.