And we’re back!

Apologies for the incredible lack of posting over the last few weeks, if it was of any interest to all the avid art history lovers who read this blog I would explain my absence, but who wants to hear about my vacation?  When art forgeries are far more fascinating!

Some of you more ardent fans might remember my post a few weeks ago about the Dürer forger who forged a self portrait so well that it fooled the Nuremberg community for seven years?  Well today I thought we might look at another forger of Dürer’s art, primarily because his case highlights a rather crucial conundrum in art forgery detection and conviction.

Luca Giordano of Naples was a gifted copyist and forger who did two particularly noteworthy forgeries of Dürer, Christ Healing the Cripple and Adoration of the Magi.  Why? 1) He did imaginative renderings in the style of Durer, rather than deliberate pastiches or even outright copies of his other works.  This is an incredible talent and one that even the notorious Van Meegeren was not able to pull off successfully.  2) He signed the paintings, then covered his signature with a layer of paint and offered his forgeries up for inspection by Dürer scholars and experts.

[Images of said forgeries could not be found, either because the paintings are lost, or because his oeuvre is so vast I could not accurately pinpoint which paintings were forgeries.  To all the visual learners out there, Sorry.]

Once they had been duped, Giordano revealed the deception and was immediately sued.  The judge, in a landmark decision that the forger undoubtedly anticipated, declared Giordano innocent on the grounds that he had signed the work (even if it was invisible to the naked eye) and that he could not be punished for “painting as well as the famous Dürer” (Hoving, False Impressions, 60).  This decision exonerated Giordano and established a precedent he would come to rely on as he cranked out forgeries of other notable artists, including his teacher Ribera, Carraci, Rembrandt, Rubens, Tintoretto, and especially Caravaggio.

This brings us to the point of this post, namely What’s in a Name?  Just like Van Meegeren in the end could only be convicted for his false signatures, Giordano got away with outright forgeries (right down to faking the age and replicating the dimensions of famous works) by using his own name and then covering it up.  So would be collectors out there: be very careful when buying a work purporting to be a High Renaissance Italian work.  Many of the less scrupulous galleries and auction houses will not always triple check that their beautiful little Madonna and Child by Veronese is not actually a passable forgery by Giordano.