The Secret World Of Art Fraud Revealed In London Show

‘Art and Artifice: Fakes from the Collection’ exhibition at London’s Courtauld Gallery reveals the secret world of art fraud.

‘Art and Artifice: Fakes from the Collection’ at London’s Courtauld Gallery examines art forgeries and the detective work unearthing the truth © HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP

The exhibition, which opens at the Courtauld in Somerset House on Saturday, features around 25 drawings and seven paintings, as well as sculpture and decorative art from the renowned gallery’s collection.

Armed with magnifying glasses, visitors can scrutinise purported masterpieces by Sandro Botticelli, John Constable, and Auguste Rodin.

Visitors will learn how they were created, the methods of the most infamous forgers and the increasingly sophisticated methods used to detect them.

“Forgeries have always existed in the history of art and have a place in our study,” Rachel Hapoienu, drawings cataloguer at the gallery, told AFP.

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Hapoienu highlighted one work thought to be by English artist Constable, which came from a sale from his daughter Isabel.

“We thought we had a straight line back to the artist,” said Hapoienu, but a shock discovery proved them wrong.

Shining a torch through the work revealed a watermark on the paper that dated it to the 1840s — after Constable had died.

“There is a sizeable group of paintings and drawings that came from John Constable’s children and grandchildren which were… probably made by one of his sons,” said Hapoienu.

“Whether they were trying to perpetrate fraud…is up or debate.”

‘National hero’

The show also highlights the infamous tale of British forger Eric Hebborn, who operated from 1950s until he was exposed in the 1970s.

Hebborn was classically trained at the prestigious Royal Academy, winning many awards while a student.

The show highlights the work of known forgers who have been unmasked © HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP

He struck up a close relationship with dealers and earned their trust by supplying them with genuine works, but mixed in his own forgeries.

Art historian Prof James Hall, a former Guardian art critic, says that the Eiffel Tower may have been what inspired Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

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