à bout de souffle
Page Eighteen

                     "Art history, as you probably know, is a nasty, vicious profession"                     
Iain Pears, The Raphael Affair, 1990, Chap 2


Die Fälschung unterscheidet sich vom Original dadurch, dass sie echter aussieht. Ernst Bloch

"Most pictures are accepted as being by Raphael, or Titian, or Rembrandt because experts say they are. Very few pictures have solid documentary evidence behind them. So, if some reputable bunch weighs in with an opinion, then it's taken seriously ...... You know how easily impressed some people are. So, museums eventually relabel their pictures. Happily if a work is upgraded, with much gnashing of teeth if it's downgraded."
Iain Pears, The Titian Committee, 1991, Chapter 7.           

Conversely, disreputable bunches (if there are any in today's museums --- perish the thought) weigh in with any old opinion.

From Fake ? The Art of Deception; published 1990, edited by Mark Jones, page 130: "The New York Customs, for example, have listed in their files the import into the United States between 1909 and 1951 of the stupendous number of 9,428 works by Rembrandt." It is very likely that the bulk of these Rembrandts were collected by Citizen Kane, as replacements for his Rosebud.

Thoughts on Fakery

Here's a page designed to addle your brain, and sabotage any confidence you may once have thought you had in your capacity for visual discernment. Quite a lot has been written on the subject of art fakery, and more and more seems to be being published. See below. No doubt the Fountain of Duchamp stated the obvious: art mirrors the absurdity of life itself. It's an illusion, a confidence-trick, what Yoko delightedly calls con-art. The only thing that really matters is a good game of chess.

Chess players cannot cheat, although they can be accused of unsportsmanlike tricks. The game itself remains transparent. Unlike art. "Chess is purer than art --- all chess players are artists." Said Duchamp. Check his transition from art to chess.

Art fraud is one of the most entertaining of crimes, as it may well be the only one where the victim of the fraud is strongly persuaded to connive complicitly in the crime committed by the fraudster who has defrauded him. Once he's bought a fake, he feels a compulsion to deny its fakehood, to perpetuate the fake's authenticity, and pass it along to the next sucker. It's only money, after all.

Art historian Thomas Hoving estimates that various types of forged art comprise up to 40% of the art market. If 40%, why not 80% ? Where does the figure of 40% come from ? Here are a few remarks culled from Wikipedia, mixed in with other internet comments: The forgers may omit details typical of the artist they are trying to imitate, or add anachronisms, in an attempt to claim that the forged work is a slightly different copy, or a previous version of a more famous work. ..... Forgeries painted by the late Elmyr de Hory, featured in the film F for Fake directed by Orson Welles, have become so valuable that forged de Horys have appeared on the market...... Hebborn became part of the international art scene in Rome and formed acquaintances with many artists and art historians, including the British spy, Tony Blunt, who told him that his drawings looked like Poussins. Pay attention to Mr Myatt and hear what revealing words he comes up with. Digest Mr Waterman's tips, right, and be especially wary of signatures which are too careful. Tip No 5.

"Forgeries are more real than the real art they fake." Jonathon Keats, page 25.

Nobody seems to care much about "authenticity" in the marine genre. Ascriptions are fairly random. Subjects are arbitrarily identified: topography, historical events picked out of a hat. Marine art hardly features in the pompous pontifications of British art historians. These people are not historians, in the true sense of the word, recording bona fide facts, but arbiters of taste, promoting their subjective opinions about what is, or is not, "art". Keats tells us fakes are the art of today.

Here's a message from the internet: "Get a picture with an aged look! Especially painted for you by an academically educated European painter! He creates paintings with museum quality and adds aging and craquelure! Just like the pictures in museums!"

At right are a couple of beautiful marine paintings. Perfect models of calm correctitude. They certainly seem to be by the same hand, and they are both signed P.Monamy. The style and content look about dead right --- theoretically. Tip No 4. In the art market for about 30-40 years. Perhaps, together, they now amount to Ł100,000 worth of oil on canvas. When did Eric Hebborn first meet Dealer Brummell?

Yale 30¼ x 45½, signed, bought 1964. Yale Concise Catalogue 1985

Lot 12, 31 Oct, 2007.            See Spink Octagon Vol XX, No 1, March 1983, p 7

Geraldine Norman wrote in The Independent, 29 January 1995, that Graham Smith, Hebborn's boyfriend, told her that Hebborn "never made a Van de Velde seascape from scratch for the Mayfair restorer George Aczel". Nevertheless, Beau Brummell was a familiar figure round the salerooms during the 1970s and '80s. I well remember seeing him. Hebborn describes him very accurately, and the story feels true. The auction house comments, above right, are not half so accurate. Monamy was not "throughout his career heavily influenced" by the works of van de Velde. He was much less influenced in this respect than Scott or Brooking. He did have some drawings by van de Velde, talked up by an auctioneer, but nothing like the vast quantity owned by Scott. The Channel Island naval family was called Durell, not Durrell. The name is pronounced Du Relle. I don't think Guild Liverymen are "elected". Monamy does not appear to have been a particular friend or companion of Hogarth, although the two men had certain traits in common, especially the promotion of native painting. Monamy was quite reasonably prosperous during the years 1720-1735, after which a slow decline set in, coinciding with the promotion of Scott by the Walpole political faction. Towards the last years of his life, 1746-49, along with Brooking, he was producing canvases which were processed by print dealers.

Lord Macaulay's comment in 1833 on Lord Orford is so wonderful, it simply has to be re-quoted: " .... as the pâté-de-foie-gras owes its excellence to the diseases of the wretched animal which furnishes it, and would be good for nothing if it were not made of livers preternaturally swollen, so none but an unhealthy and disorganised mind could have produced such literary luxuries as the works of Walpole." Horace's tribe of acolytes is similarly swollen. Toxic is the term in vogue.

Which of the two paintings below would you rather have ? Authenticity ? What's that got to do with anything ?

Ships in a Calm Sea (1653) by Willem van de Velde, the Younger;
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
See M.S.Robinson, Van de Veldes, Vol 1, p 305

click for a van de velde
The picture's value is the painter's name.

Below, left: a ketch by moonlight, signed Brooking, died 1759.            Below right: the Intrepid  ketch enters Tripoli harbour, 1803.

"Any port in a storm", said Fanny Hill.       Although this is palpably a calm, whatever anyone may say.

Above, left: the Kingfisher takes on seven Algerine pirates, 1681.            Above right: ketch by moonlight, apparently now by Swaine, died 1782.

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fantasy world

yacht & hoy flank views

chronology & authenticity
these pages need substantial revision

monamy website index

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2013, 2017
all rights reserved


Unsigned. Hand looks familiar. Attributed to Swaine. Heaven knows why. Yale.

13 x 25½. Hand seems familiar. This one's attributed to John Cook. Distinct look of Leemans about it. NMM.

Originals & copies, much the same.

A Reading & Watching List

Welles, Orson
Jones, Mark [ed]
Hebborn, Eric
Hebborn, Eric
Hoving, Thomas
Lopez, Jonathan
Perenyi, Ken
Keats, Jonathon
F for Fake
FAKE? The Art of Deception
Drawn to Trouble
The Art Forger's Handbook
False Impressions: Hunt for Big-time Art Fakes
The Man Who Made Vermeers: Han van Meegeren
Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger
Forged: why fakes are the great art of our age

Here's a fascinating clip:     Eric Hebborn, 1934 – 1996, lives again! Free lessons on youtube mean no-one these days need be without a full-blown, copper-bottomed, genuine leather masterpiece in their very own personal home, whether up-, down-, or middle-market.

Pirates Abound


F.M.Brotherhood ?

Pirates Abound