Thursday 18 January 2018

Spot the fake? All of them (except one)

A conservator puts the finishing touches on the frame of a portrait of Chaim Soutine – attributed to the Italian artist Modigliani – at the Ducal Palace in Genoa, Italy. Photo: AP
A conservator puts the finishing touches on the frame of a portrait of Chaim Soutine – attributed to the Italian artist Modigliani – at the Ducal Palace in Genoa, Italy. Photo: AP

Nick Squires

A dazzling collection of Modigliani paintings that went on display in Italy, believed to be worth tens of millions of euro, has been declared fake.

The works, which include reclining nudes in the Italian artist's inimitable style, may now be destroyed.

Experts have warned the collection is just "the tip of the iceberg" and that Modigliani, whose paintings fetch huge sums, is one of the world's most copied artists.

The 21 paintings went on display last spring in Genoa's Ducal Palace amid great fanfare and were seen by tens of thousands of visitors.

But Carlo Pepi, an art expert from Tuscany, quickly raised doubts about their authenticity and the exhibition was closed in July, with the paintings handed over to investigators.

After months of study, art historians have declared they are all clever reproductions apart from one, which has a certificate of authenticity from the Italian government and appears to be genuine.

The alleged fakes included a portrait of the artist and writer Jean Cocteau, a seated nude, a reclining nude and a seated woman.

"Finally it's come out into the open," said Mr Pepi, who believes most of the fakes were painted in the 1980s.

"I've been fighting against fake Modiglianis for years. The situation is grotesque - it sometimes seems he painted more when he was dead than when he was alive. This is just the tip of the iceberg."

Isabella Quattrocchi, a consultant who was brought in by prosecutors to study the paintings, said they were "blatantly fake".

The frames around the paintings were from Eastern Europe and the United States and "have nothing to do, either in context or historical period, with Modigliani".

Marc Restellini, a French expert, said: "It is indisputable that the works are fakes and I have presented the proof. I've given all the information in my possession to the [police] in order to explain how this counterfeiting system works."

Mr Restellini, who has organised Modigliani exhibitions around the world, believes there are "at least 1,000 Modigliani fakes in the world".

Irish Independent

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