And we’re back! Apologies for the break in our regular programming, I had a rather whirlwind trip to the UK, the highlight of which involved eating amazing curry in Edinburgh and then watching a Bollywood movie with some lovely people on the Fourth of July. Those of you who might know me personally can appreciate that this is pretty much Standard Operating Procedure for me. Then came the acquisition of a new job and a new apartment, roughly in the same week, which is hardly the least stressful way to attempt either.
As per usual, it took a long time for me to settle on a forger to share with you today. However, it occurred to me that I haven’t touched upon any famous french forgeries lately. As I was trolling through the french forgers I suddenly struck upon one that is rather near and dear to my heart, or at least as near and dear to my heart as an art forger is ever going to get. Primarily because he is one the two reasons that the Mona Lisa will never be scientifically tested.
Yves Chandron was a French forger who is implicated in the conspiracy to steal the Mona Lisa in 1911. The story goes that he collaborated with a man names Valfierno, and set about producing six copies of the painting while his accomplice worked out how to steal the painting. This way they could steal the painting, keep the original and then sell six copies to respective millionaires who would a)pay anything to have the Mona Lisa and b)be too scared to ever tell anyone they did.
So how do you go about stealing a national treasure? Simple. You find someone who worked on the painting’s security system. Peruggia was an Italian house painter who had helped to install the state of the art glass case the Mona Lisa was housed in, and yet somehow his name never came up during the police investigations.
The Mona Lisa was missing for TWO YEARS before it was found in the fake bottom of a steamer trunk. It turns out that Peruggia tried to hawk it to every museum around but none of them would touch it, because let’s face it, who wants to suffer the wrath of the Louvre? He finally managed to persuade someone at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to look at it, only to be turned in by the authorities as soon as his contact confirmed that the painting was genuine.
So, here are the two takeaways:
1) The story about the forger who made copies of the painting, could very well be fake itself. The only reference to the conspiracy plot including Valfierno and Chaudron is from a newspaper story published in 1932. There’s a great article here about it you would like to learn more.
2) Two years is plenty of time for anyone to make a very good copy of a painting, even one by Leonardo da Vinci. Since there will always be a hint of suspicion about the painting, the Louvre may never actually test it on the off-chance that the Mona Lisa that was returned to them may actually be a forgery.