Monday, August 23, 2010

Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries - National Gallery

Art museums around the world have been proactively procuring masterpieces and some have done so over the centuries. Many pieces were well known and many a fortune had been paid for them. While most of the lot are genuine works of grandmasters, a handful are clever forgeries that have been hastily added into collections without the usual scrutiny.


Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries exhibition at National Gallery exposes some of these pieces. Housed over six rooms in the basement exhibition area in Sainsbury Wing, the exhibition details how each of the pieces are found out – layers uncovered by x-rays, hastened aging of wooden frames or pigments used that simply did not exist when the painting was supposedly created.

Interestingly, not all on display are forgeries. Some are meant to be copies, which was mistakenly thought of as the original, others are modifications, which had been done by the original artists themselves – often to increase their saleability.

Look out for the Madonna of the Veil (Room 1). The piece surfaced in the 1930s and thought to be a previously undiscovered work of Botticelli. Experts at that time were unconvinced and thought that Madonna has the ‘silent cinema star’ look. True enough, the piece was proven later to be the work of Umberto Giuti, a notorious Italian Renaissance painting forger.

A 15 minute clip towards the end of the exhibition sums up the process of uncovering a forgery nicely. Be sure not to miss that part of the exhibition if you were to drop by. Also, grab a complimentary copy of The Science Of Painting, which provides a useful glossary of terms used throughout the exhibition, at the entrance.

National Gallery (Sainsbury Wing)
Till 12 Sept
Admission Free

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William K Wallace said...

This looks like an exhibition that is worth getting myself along for a wee look at. It seems that over the years there has been a lot of talented forgers....

C K said...

Seems that many forged works (and thus their creators) aren't discovered until recent scientific advancement made that possible.

Well worth a look if you are in the area. Anyway, you can catch this and the BP Portrait Award 2010 at National Portrait Gallery within a single afternoon. That was what I did!