fakes in art

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    Fakes in Art

    Maria Teresa Gonalves

    Doutoramento em Estudos de Literatura e Cultura

    Teoria da Literatura





    Fakes in Art

    Maria Teresa Gonalves

    Dissertao orientada por:

    Professor Doutor Miguel Tamen

    Doutoramento em Estudos de Literatura e Cultura

    Teoria da Literatura


  • To my parents.

  • Contents

    Acknowledgements 1

    Abstract 4

    Introduction 5

    1. Judgement and Attribution of a Work of Art: What Do Experts Look at? 8

    2. Attribution: Luckily It Is Not a Science 27

    3. Reattribution and Value 64

    4. Authenticity and Value: What Is Wrong with a Forgery? 102

    5. Trust, Silence and Implausible Confessions


    Works Cited 182

  • Acknowledgements

    Writing the acknowledgements section has the effect of making all the hard

    work, worries and doubts that writing a dissertation entails seem less hard. Knowing

    there would be a lot of people to thank and share this work with is one of the reasons

    why it was worth doing.

    First, I would like to thank Professor Miguel Tamen for his support, patient

    guidance and invaluable suggestions throughout all the stages of the process. His

    supervision and seminars reminded me how thrilling changing ones mind can be.

    To Professor Antnio M. Feij I owe much encouragement and stimulating

    questions. Some years ago, I learnt that spending a whole semester reading Hamlet

    is not too long something I would never have realised had I not attended his


    I gratefully acknowledge Fundao Gulbenkian for the financial support. I was

    a recipient of a PhD scholarship from September 2009 to August 2012 which allowed

    me to do research in London.

    I was released from teaching for three school years, from September 2009 to

    August 2012. The conditions to focus on research and writing were provided by

    Ministrio da Educao.

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    I am indebted to Professors Frederico Loureno and Abel Barros Baptista for

    their generosity and thought-provoking seminars.

    In London, I am grateful for the assistance of the staff at the National Art

    Library, at Sothebys and Christies and to Mr Vernon Rapley, head of security at the

    Victoria and Albert Museum. I cannot thank my friend Charles Hill enough for

    thoroughly answering all my questions and being so open about his work. I also

    thank him and his wife Carol for the hospitality.

    This work benefited enormously from discussions with Pedro M. Alvim, who

    could not have been more liberal with his time.

    I also would like to thank all the friends who have always been available

    despite my absence from social gatherings, recurring topics of conversation and

    occasional bad mood. My dear friend Claudia Fischer has been exceedingly

    supportive and affectionate, offering all kinds of help and advice. To Alexandra

    Mariano and Miguel Dias, Antnio Ramalho, Elisabete Sousa, Fernando Carita,

    Maria Sequeira Mendes and Alex Gozblau, Patrcia and Nuno Proena, Pedro

    Lucena, Raquel Macedo and Rodrigo Magalhes I owe decades of loyal friendship,

    which have made my life richer in so many ways.

    Alda Rodrigues, Ana Paulino and Joo Figueiredos sensitivity, insightful

    remarks and optimism were very welcome. Ana Cludia Santos, Joana Meirim, Nuno

    Amado, Manuel Oliveira Dias and Rita Furtado have kept in touch and showed

    interest in how the work was progressing, and that certainly made a difference. Ana

    Paula Silva and Jos Rodriguez offered accurate technical assistance. I appreciate

    everything Elsia Monteiro, Nilza Neves and Rui Esteves did to improve my working


    For the last twenty years I have relied on Maria Jos and Toms Oliveira

    Diass affection, support and sense of humour. I have enjoyed these years immensely.

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    And last but not least, I thank my parents for everything.

  • 4


    Knowing a work of art is fake influences ones opinion about it. Moreover, it

    has important effects on the lives of people who are interested in art. These claims

    will be made in articulation with the following: judgements about art are not much

    different from judgements about actions that are unrelated to art. Art forgery is not a

    special case within the judgement of actions and intentions. Opinions about works of

    art, particularly about the intention to deceive, are moral descriptions.

    Keywords: Art Forgery Attribution Intention Value Aesthetics



    Saber que uma obra de arte falsa influencia a nossa opinio acerca dessa

    obra e tem consequncias importantes na vida das pessoas que se interessam por

    arte. Defender-se- tambm que opinies sobre arte no so muito diferentes de

    opinies a respeito de aces que nada tm a ver com arte. As falsificaes em arte

    no constituem um caso especial da avaliao de aces e intenes. Opinies sobre

    obras de arte, particularmente sobre a inteno de enganar, so descries morais.

    Palavras-chave: Falsificaes em Arte Atribuio Inteno Valor

    Esttica Mercado

  • Introduction

    This dissertation is about how in our relationship with art, being sure that

    what one is looking at, buying, selling or showing is authentic makes all the

    difference. It will be claimed that information such as by whom and when an object

    was made is crucial in the judgement museum visitors, collectors, curators, art

    experts and dealers make about artworks every day all over the world. To

    demonstrate the relevance of such information, the intentions and actions of experts

    and art forgers are considered with the purpose of assessing the effects they have on

    the art market. My main claim is that finding out one has seen, sold or bought a fake

    art object is decisive in ones judgements about art because valuing art is not

    separable from judging intentions and actions. Opinions about authenticity in art

    are, necessarily, opinions about intentions and actions. And those are moral

    opinions. Ultimately, the art market provides ample evidence for such assertion.

    The five chapters of this dissertation focus on the not so distinct aspects, at

    times, of the actions of art experts and forgers. The problems addressed are often

    interrelated. What follows is a summary of the contents of each chapter.

    Chapter 1 examines the role of the trained eye of the art expert in the

    attribution of a work of art and how that talent is developed. The combination of

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    scholarship, experience, sensitivity to detail and an alert mind are the attributes an

    expert has to display so as to be recognised as such by his peers. Moreover, the

    chapter highlights the unscientific nature of the process of attribution of artworks.

    There is not a universally established protocol as far as judging art is concerned.

    There are, however, some procedures which are usually followed by connoisseurs.

    The chapter ends with the suggestion that the scientific tests available to analyse

    works of art do not override the trained eye of the expert.

    The description of the attempts to make connoisseurship a scientific subject is

    the object of chapter 2. I show the inadequacy of theories which presuppose that our

    relationship with art can be defined as an activity whose effects may be predicted. In

    my approach to the problem, explanations that restrict the appreciation of artworks

    to the identification of patterns and recurring elements in identical objects are

    refuted. In this context, the method of connoisseurhip developed by the art historian

    and doctor Giovanni Morelli is looked at closely. He believed that artists could be

    identified by the minutiae that are usually overlooked in paintings, rather than by

    larger elements. Morellis interest in anatomy informed his method. He argued that

    the way an artist renders hands, fingernails or ears is what should be examined in the

    attribution of artworks.

    In chapter 3 the talents of experts are again brought to the readers attention.

    The problem of attribution, or rather, of the consequences of the change of status of a

    work of art for its market value, is considered in conjunction with the growing

    reluctance on the part of experts to openly express their opinions about artworks for

    fear of litigation. In a market that lacks regulation and heavily relies on trust to work

    smoothly, less scholarship being produced and less experts willing to be clear about

    the authenticity of works will allow the proliferation of forgeries. The chapter also

    addresses the relationship between supply and demand and its implications for the

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    production of forgeries. Forgers are aware of the kind of objects that are scarce at a


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