• gerard van weyenbergh

Forgery history , part 1/7


The art of forgery dates back to the most ancient times when art, essentially religious, took a primordial place in men's lives from the moment they began to celebrate rites and honor gods who, d 'regions had different names but generally had the same powers.

It began with the borrowing of manufacturing methods and then of styles until the demand for statues or objects became strong. From there, artists and artisans began to make copies for export. It did not prevent the Egyptians from being copied by neighboring peoples and then by the Greeks when they established themselves in Alexandria. We should not forget that the Mesopotamians had previously exercised their artistic influences on many territories such as present-day Afghanistan and even China, who copied their objects in their way.

Before discussing Greece's artistic development, whose creations dazzled and inspired the Romans, it should be noted that men very early on poured into imposture, an innate attitude used by an individual seeking to pass for an other to try to value themselves in the eyes of their fellows.

History is made up of extraordinary impostures born from the desire of certain human beings sometimes to transform themselves into demiurges or simply leave a lasting mark on their passage on earth. It is already enough to dive into mythology or the Bible to see that some men tried to sublimate themselves to assert themselves in the eyes of others, and this, using various alibis adequate to achieve their ambitions.

To enter the legend, they had to accomplish unimaginable feats, and in doing so, they had to make a damn impression by upsetting the established order and trampling on acquired principles. Take the example of Abraham, convinced of the existence of a single god, who destroyed the idols which he believed represented false gods and who went so far as to want to sacrifice his son to prove to himself that he was right. Some of his contemporaries probably treated him as a fool or a storyteller, while others, far fewer, saw him as a prophet. Ditto for Moses, apparently an Egyptian priest who became defrocked in his own way, who began to profess the existence of

Alexander the Great himself, obliged to surpass his father to the point of killing the image of him to realize his dreams, led his troops from conquest to conquest until the moment when his faith began to doubt his stature as a conqueror. As for Jesus, he was first considered as an illuminated man and as a false messiah before his sacrifice on the cross made him the son of God. He was venerated by apostles who then went to preach the good word to the Mediterranean basin's four corners. From there, Christendom's birth, accepting the heritage of the Old Testament but disseminating to impose the false claim that the Jews were deicides, which led them to be persecuted for a long time before being victims of centuries later to mass extermination. The truth was elsewhere, but whatever,

Most beliefs have been based on misleading impressions or purported miracles or exploits glorified in texts that have become sacred. The false is thus quickly insinuated perniciously in the life of the men, even if it means to obscure the truth or to replace it. The emergence of Muhammad six centuries after Jesus' death finally proved that it was possible to rewrite the truth and impose another view of God, even though millions of people would be convinced of his uniqueness. For Muhammad, what the other initiators of the Jewish and Christian religions had decreed before him was true but not completely correct or not sufficiently consistent with reality and what concerned God's relationship. Who was right, who was wrong? Today's world is confronted more than ever with this nagging question and with the intolerance born of the blind faith of millions of individuals, which prevents them from any discernment. Religion is the opium of the people said, Karl Marx.

Obviously, the radical observance of a dogma, therefore arbitrary, is likely to distort any notion of balanced judgment in a faithful guided but also blinded by his faith. It is true that any totalitarianism has come to replace religion has in turn engendered dangerous drifts and that no absolute belief escapes arbitrariness. What is good for some is not necessarily good for others.

It is already not easy to discern between the true and the false so much it is obvious that the false is the illusion of the true. Some think to have the truth, but others may feel that it is the result of false judgment. As soon as an idea or a criterion is imposed on a majority, it therefore leads by ricochet to a form of dispute among other individuals because nothing is definitively immutable in this lower world.

At the artistic level, certain masterpieces of Greek art later became essential beauty criteria for the Romans. They were therefore looted and then copied, but the rich patricians who set their sights on these wonders wanted at all costs that they be authentic. So, unscrupulous dealers ended up finding a way to get rich quickly by selling copies to easily fooled customers by passing them off as original works.

To help them in their enterprise, there were artists, some with no other ulterior motive than to be moved by the pleasure of doing as well as the geniuses of Greek art by faithfully copying them and others, aware that plagiarism could give them the means to live comfortably instead of struggling to make their own nest.

The counterfeit industry during Antiquity, however, came to a sudden halt with the invasions of the Barbarians, who persisted in destroying temples, monuments and artistic achievements throughout the late Roman Empire, and with the emergence of the Muslim religion which also completed this operation of large-scale destruction because according to the Koran any human representation in matters of art, religious or not, was considered impious.

Christendom, for its part, imposed essentially religious artistic canons and the only fakes which appeared in Europe from the 6th to the 14th century concerned relics of saints or for example the Shroud of Turin which passed for a long time, and even in the eyes of many believers today. 'hui, like the authentic shroud which enveloped the body of Christ. A scientific analysis of this fabric has proved beyond doubt that it was made by an ingenious artist around the 13th century. In any case, this marvelous plagiarism has been for centuries an incredible source of devotion for the faithful convinced of having before them the negative image of Jesus himself.

Forger rhymes with fake just as the English word fake rhymes with flake (away) but before discussing the art of plagiarism, it is necessary to distinguish between fake and copying, which does not t is not easy to do since the copy is not necessarily plagiarism.

Before reaching the peak of their art, all artists had to work to copy their predecessors to perfect their technique. Copying the masters has always been a necessary step for the latter. Over the years, the copies made with mastery by certain great masters ended up being considered by amateurs and dealers as authentic works of those they had copied.

When making copies, most of these artists did not necessarily have the idea of ​​creating fakes except when some of them had the annoyance of being told that they did not have the size masters they copied. This was the case with Michelangelo, who notably deceived a cardinal by making him acquire a statuette he had just created and which had been sold to him as being from the Roman period. On learning of the deception, the prelate destroyed it in a fit of rage. It was also the case of several painters of the XVIIe century who to obtain monarchs' support made them present copies of works of painters whom they admired. Artists like Vélasquez or Le Brun did not hesitate to make copies in the beginning of their careers.

Copyists out of necessity to better master their art, some artists amused themselves by painting forgeries to impress the gallery, such as Raphael who committed some false Perugin, like Delacroix who made paintings in the manner, very misleading, moreover, of Greuze, Watteau, Velasquez or Rubens or like Van Dyck who took pleasure in painting fake Rubens.

© Adrian Darmon.