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Old Master Forgery Scandal

A major art scandal is in the works and Old Master paintings are the focus. A suspected $255 million worth of paintings are now being speculated that they could be the work of an expert forger. The suspected paintings include works by Frans Hals, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Ozario Gentileschi and others. Paris and New York art dealer, Bob Haboldt, says "This is the biggest art scandal in a century".

The details of the scandal only came to light in March, when a French judge launched the investigation after a painting attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder was thought to not be genuine. Now, some twenty-five paintings are thought to be involved. Sotheby’s has even reimbursed the buyer of a painting by what was thought to be by Frans Hals, further giving credit to the idea that these paintings are indeed fakes.

In addition to the very upset individuals who had purchased the paintings, the reputations of experts who authenticated the paintings are on the line. The very concept of authentication is now under question. Bob Haboldt, told the Antique Trade Gazette, “Technical examination is a good back up but the visual confrontation and identification of Old Master, however difficult and subjective to taste at times, is still of the utmost importance in old school connoisseurship”. Bendor Grosvenor wrote on his blog, Art History News, “the system upon which the art market relies for determining authenticity is not working.”

Authentication is a tricky matter and more and more, authentication experts are no longer willing to take on the liability of authentication. In 2011, the Andy Warhol Foundation dissolved the Authentication Board because they encountered so much legal action regarding their verdicts. It will be interesting to watch as this scandal develops and the lasting effects is has on auction houses, collectors and authentication experts.

Franz Hals, Portrait of a Man

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