Picasso, it wasn’t you!

Jun 22, 2022

Art diagnostics is, among other things, an outpost for the protection of cultural heritage. The case we are presenting here is one of the many we have treated. Not all of them become public, and they do not all end in court.

In France legislation imposes to destroy fake paintings. Perhaps this is too extreme. But the damages that a fake painting can do to the buyer, to the understanding of the esthetic of a painter and to the market, iare 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 even scholars and 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 on the back. 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 which ones are the irrefutable evidences that the artifact is an intentional forgery.

In our world the word “false” has multiple declensions, nuances, not always totally negative: e.g. a work even if it is not to be attributed to a given author, may still be of the same period, produced at the same time, and have a consistent value.

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 work conducted was disclosed. Investigation and process that led to identify those responsible for the scam.

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”.