This display will showcase drawings, paintings, sculpture and decorative arts that are not what they seem. It will present remarkable forgeries from The Courtauld’s collection and tell the stories behind their making and the discovery of their deception. Some known forgeries were given to The Courtauld to help students learn from them. Other works were the pride of the collectors who donated them to the Gallery, only to be later revealed as fakes through close looking, technical examination or research into their history.
Fakes in art are nothing new; forgeries of drawings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder began appearing shortly after his death in 1569, one of which is included in the display. Another striking forgery is a Virgin and Child, once thought to be a masterpiece by Botticelli, but unmasked as a fake by the Virgin’s resemblance to a 1930s film star. The forgers themselves have become figures of notoriety; a Courtauld professor returned from service in the Second World War with a painting by Han van Meegeren, who went on trial for selling fake Vermeers to the Nazi elite. Also included is a drawing by the infamous British forger Eric Hebborn, who boasted that only a small number of his fakes have been uncovered.
The programme of displays in the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery is generously supported by the International Music and Art Foundation, with additional support from James Bartos.