Art diagnostics is, among other things, an outpost for the protection of cultural heritage. The one case we are presenting here is one of the many we have treated. Not all of them become public, as they do not all end in court. Moreover, we have to respect the secrecy of the investigations and the necessary time before the conclusion of the trial.
In France legislation imposes to distroy fake paintings. Perhaps too extreme. But the damages that a fake painting can do to the buyer, to the understading of the esthetic of a painter and to the market, is vast.
Who wants to have a fake Picasso circulating the market?
Years ago we received a painting presented to us as by Picasso. During the first Scientific Condition Report we highlighted inconsistencies, despite the painting having deceived the members of the commission of the Export Office of the Superintendence of Turin. Thus we were asked to deepen the analysis with a complete diagnostic campaign, both with non-invasive and micro-destructive investigations: multispectral analysis, infrared reflectography, radiography, color analysis with XRF, and with chemical analysis on micro-samples. All the elements of the painting were evaluated, even the frame on which it was anchored and the labels affixed. All of course in concertation with the study of the Picasso’s technique and way of working.
After having realized that something is wrong, it is in fact necessary to recognize what are the irrefutable evidences that the artifact is an intentional forgery. In our world the word “false” has multiple declensions, nuances and not always totally negative, i.e. a work is not to be attributed to a given author but may still be of the same period, produced at the same time. In other cases paintings are sometimes incorrectly indicated as false when they are “academy exercises”, in this case they are in fact better defined as “copies”.
This time, however, we were confronted with an “intentional forgery”, that is, an artifact created and placed on the market with the sole purpose of defrauding a possible buyer.
The painting we are talking about is El Pintor, signed “Picasso”. Following the diligent work of the Carabinieri Protection Unit, on 2 August 2019, the investigation conducted was disclosed. Investigation and process that led to identify those responsible.
Of course, the advice is always to proceed with the analyzes before purchasing. And also this time our motto (originally by Leonardo) falls perfectly: “it is better a small certainty than a big lie”.