Fake paintings, as an imitation of the painting style and the plot of the work of a famous master for enrichment, has always existed. According to experts, the amount of funds annually obtained from the sale of fakes in Russia is from 8 to 50% of the total volume of transactions with paintings, estimated at $ 200 – 700 million.
Falsification of paintings by craftsmen is a business for many: manufacturers, dealers, buyers, police, insurance agencies.
The problem of fakes, especially their manufacture, really sharply arose in the second half of the 20th century, when new physicochemical methods for determining authenticity appeared. In 1965, it turned out that the portrait of Earl Wellington at the London National Gallery, attributed to Goya, was just a fake. In 1976 – that in the Cornell Museum Koro’s fakes are stored. Throughout his career, Corot painted about 600 paintings, but only three thousand walk on the American market. In the Metropolitan Museum of 66 utensils of 8 thousand years ago, brought from excavations in Turkey, only 18, indeed, are ancient. And this is in the most prestigious museums in the world. What to speak about private collections!
In 1996, the exposed counterfeit manufacturer Eric Hebborn published the book The Art Forgers Handbook, a guide to making fakes. Over 40 years of work (1950-1996), Hebborn himself left thousands of drawings to his contemporaries recognized by experts as “previously unknown” works by Brueghel, Piranesi, Van Dyck. He performed them on paper extracted from ancient books of that era, made the primer and paints from the same materials that the real authors used. Some of them bought the Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, USA. Shortly after the publication of the book, Hebborn (aged 61) was found with a broken skull on a street in Rome. It is difficult now to understand why they still didn’t forgive him: making fakes or an honest story about the secrets of the profession.
Han Antonius Van Meegeren (1889-1947) entered the history of art as the most brilliant falsifier. The author of the largest picturesque fake of all time – “Christ at Emmaus” by Vermeer Delft. At the beginning of the century, when the whole world went crazy with the recently completely forgotten Vermeer, he began to create paintings in the spirit of the great Dutchman. Specialists could not distinguish them from genuine canvases, museums bought them for huge money and exhibited as the largest acquisition of the century. When the deception was revealed (and van Megeeren worked both as a “genuine” Peter de Hoch and like many other masters of the 17th century), the anger of a professional cesspool was terrible. How, he encroached on the most sacred – the authenticity of art? But van Megeeren really posed such a problem for humanity: how to relate to geniuses if descendants can imitate them, while preserving the spirit of genius? In search of an answer, an exhibition of van Megerin himself has opened in Rotterdam (until June 2, 1996). More than a hundred works of the artist (mainly drawings and watercolors) prove that he himself had an original gift. Only now the character was very nervous: in an atmosphere of universal enthusiasm for the old masters, he devoted his talent to the fight against old myths, and not to creating new ones.
Today, one of the world’s largest markets for the illicit trade in art fakes is London. According to The Times, most of these “works” are produced in Russia, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In addition, among the fakes rotating on the world market, several thousand are of American origin.
The specialist of the Tretyakov Gallery, who has earned the title of the best expert in Europe, Vladimir Petrov believes that today in St. Petersburg there is a “school” of fake artists who graduated from the Academy of Arts, which supply fakes to the market. These artists use modern computer methods, and with the help of special varnishes they achieve aging.
High-quality fakes also come from abroad – from Germany, France – where, according to Vladimir Petrov, our emigrants draw them. Especially often fake Beggrova, Gorbatov, Pohitonov, Korovin. An even greater number of fakes in our time is associated with the avant-garde.
HOW TO MAKE A PICTURE
When faking an old picture, it is specially made more dilapidated. This process is complicated. It is important to choose an old stretcher and canvas, the composition of paints. To get a clean antique canvas for creating a copy, old canvases (little-known paintings) are exposed to high temperature, then they are cleaned of paint. One of the final operations – the product is placed in an oven, smoked and dried at a certain temperature. The surface of the picture becomes dark, covered with a cobweb of cracked cracks.
When faking paintings of the XVII century. specially prepared paints, phenol formaldehyde and natural oils are used.