The family portrait above is a fake painted in the early 20th Century but bought by the National Gallery in the London as newly discovered Old Master. The gallery has announced a new exhibition for next year that focuses on fakes:
Such gaffes are the subject of an exhibition next June at the National Gallery. Entitled Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries, it charts some of the museum’s most embarrassing errors and faux pas, involving works once thought of as Old Masters but later removed from the walls of the gallery to be stashed ignominiously in the basement.
It is not only a question of paintings deliberately created to deceive, but also of works painted in good faith but mistakenly attributed by National Gallery experts.
For instance, in 1845, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, then keeper of the National Gallery, bought a work known as Man with a Skull and attributed it to Holbein. That attribution was doubted at once, and the resulting scandal saw him resign – though he later returned as director of the gallery. In fact, the work was Flemish rather than German, and was created after Holbein’s death.
Today’s director of the gallery, Nicholas Penny, did not rule out that such errors could continue to be made. “The history of mistakes encourages extreme caution and extreme humility,” he said. […]
According to the gallery’s Betsy Wieseman, the exhibition’s co-curator, the Montefeltro faker must not only have known his or her art history, but also created something particularly designed to pique the interest of a collector. “The faker was aiming for something that looked a bit like Piero della Francesca or Ghirlandaio, but wasn’t quite like any of them. You can imagine the intrigue, the idea of finding a work by an unknown artist. If you are in a bit of a hurry and don’t ask too many questions, you can present it as a grand discovery.”
The work is aiming for the style of 15th-century profile portraits, such as Piero della Francesca’s famous portrait of the same sitter, now in the Uffizi in Florence. It also seems to have a relationship with the painting of the duke and his son by Pedro Berruguete that now hangs in Urbino.
The exhibition will also look at paintings upgraded to Old Master status, rather than demoted. Such is the case with the gallery’s Madonna of the Pinks, which Penny himself re-attributed to Raphael after it was dismissed as a copy in the 19th century.