Laura Gascoigne

Fascinating forgeries: Art and Artifice – Fakes from the Collection, at the Courtauld, reviewed

How is it that a painting that was worth millions yesterday can be worth nothing today, when the picture has not changed?

‘Triptych with Virgin and Child with Saints’ by Icilio Federico Joni (1866-1946). Credit: The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

In 1998 curators at the Courtauld Institute received an anonymous phone call informing them that 11 drawings in their collection were fakes. The caller intimated that he was an associate of the notorious forger Eric Hebborn, who had claimed in his 1991 memoir, Drawn to Trouble, to have sold the institute a fake Rowlandson.

The Sienese turned their training as restorers of Renaissance paintings to more profitable use

The Courtauld had, in fact, already rumbled the Rowlandson before Hebborn boasted of putting one over on it; now it looked like it could be more than one.

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