Modigliani Experts: Modigliani Art Authentication and Appraisal
The hot theme regarding the 'genuine or fake' in art, to which is linked the right of the attribution of art works, has been approached in an accurate way by Federica Falchini, the author of "the ingredients of a novel and we blindfolded spectators", valuable introduction in my book.
In agreement with the art historian, I would like to add that the judgment on a work of art can not be relegated only to the 'verdict' of some not clearly identified 'expert' or throught scientific methods very controversial and sometimes easily to undermine by professional forgers (just think to the eternal querelles on the most famous findings of recent times, such as the numerous "Caravaggio", his drawings in the case in point or some paintings in dubious style, which have left more than one observer perplexed and yet have been proposed in exhibitions and events of great public and advertising resonance). Above all, it is necessary to perform rigorous and careful historical research to study the origins of the work, in order to ward off any doubt about the authenticity, accepting the possibility to not increase the artist's catalog in question to get the "case of year ", punctually heralded on the occasion of major retrospectives.
When we talking about Modigliani, one of the most faked artists of the entire 20th century (as is often the case for modern and contemporary artists) this practice becomes more than obligatory since there are a lot of works attributed to the artist also accompanied by 'excellent' certificates of authenticity, but whose history is almost impossible to reconstruct. In addition to this, it must be said that the market situation on this artist became even more complicated following the storm that hit the "Legal Archives" of the artist with the arrest of its president, a scandal that has doubled the general skepticism about the fatherhood of the works attributed to Modigliani, so much so the works in auction, certified by the aforementioned Institute, result systematically unsold.
The main problem concerning certificates of authenticity is subordinated by credibility / fame, but above all by the professionalism of the subject who emits it. This is a fact that finds ample confirmation in the way of acting of owners or collectors in search of official recognition for their works in fact, knowing perfectly that the auction houses accept only works accompanied by certificates of authenticity drawn up by trusted authority on the artist's work and recognized by the academic and art market communities, or if included in catalogs deemed "trustable", they do not waste their time, nor their own money, with certain Institutes issuing certificate of authenticity that turn out to be devoid of any value.
In this regard, it is impossible to not remember the memorabile 1984 hoax, an event in which the greatest Italian art historians was covered with redicolous (it must be said that none of them was a Modigliani expert), both to understand that the ability to "read" a work of art, recognize and judge, are not requirement relegated to titles or prestigious position (nor is it possible to verified in each experts), both to understand what blunders can be made when scientific analyzes on the works of art are not performed by experts in the field, just think to the 'scientists' appointed by the Superintendence of Pisa which established that the three stones had remained in the ditches of Livorno for over 70 years!
Almost all current art historians are reluctant to deal with authentications and they refuse to look at any work for fear of making mistakes and therefore losing their credibility, but also for fear of being sued by unhappy buyers or sellers of their conclusions; for the same reasons, even those who hold the Artist's Moral Rights, such as heirs, archives or foundations, have ceased the activity of authentication, for example the Foundations Andy Wharol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, just to name a few.
When we are talking about Modigliani attributed works the fear to commit mistakes is amplified at most! The only one who does not lack the courage to expose himself is Carlo Pepi, whose battles in the name of the artist from Livorno they are well known, and he results - at least for now- the only expert to have call into question "the untouchable" Ceroni catalog (first published in 1958 and last updated just before his death in 1970, it features 337 works), considered "the Modigliani bible" by the auction houses. It was in fact Pepi in 1984, to realize that the sculpture identified as Ceroni XIV is fake because it is not the same we find in the photo taken in the Cardoso atelier in 1911. Over the years, numerous books and catalogues on Modigliani sculptor activity have been published, in which we see with amazement that the Sculpture Ceroni XIV (Perls property) has been replaced with the head photographed in the atelier of the Portuguese painter without mention of Carlo Pepi that recognized for first the mistake committed by Ambrogio Ceroni. A non-elegant style of many characters in the art world..
There are some works whose authenticity can be established (more or less) when the expert judgment is validated by the history of the works, especially when we are in front of youthful works, as Wayne Vesti Andersen had highlighted (for those who want to know more about the character: http://www.waynevestiandersen.com/), who in 1993 had authenticated the sculptures saved by Piero Carboni fifty years earlier.
Let's take as an example the landscape attributed to Modigliani "La stradina" in display at the Fattori Museum in Livorno.
In front of this oil on cardboard, no expert in the world would take side for the authenticity of this work, simply because we can't find those characteristics that can be traced back to Modigliani's art and style - or Macchiaiolo - ; therefore only the history of this work can shed light on the possible belonging to the artist, questioned by many art historians (also probably because no scientific studies have ever been performed on).
The piedmontese writer Clemente Fusero in his book "The Modigliani novel" published in 1958, spoke about this landscape in a very suggestive way. Obviously we are talking about a novel without any pretense of reliability, in which clearly are not mentioned the people from whom he had recovered some information nor any biographical source.
The direct sources, however, take us back to a publication by Llewelyn Lloyd (1879-1949), a book of 1951 entitled "Tempi andati" (old times) by Roberto Papini who had the brilliant idea to collect the memories of the Anglo-Italian artist when he was his guest at Florence. Lloyd tells when he was a Micheli student with other young artists, including Modigliani: "We went to paint outdoors, but I remember only one Dedo work, painted in a country road after the winter sun at "Salviano" (rural area of Livorno at the time). We were side by side, so we painted the same theme". Here Lloyd does not describe the landscape painted by Modigliani at Salviano (confused by Clemente Fusero with "La Banditella", another area of Livorno), shows us only the atmosphere: a winter day at sunset time (and the painting in question in fact is dark). Scrolling through the memoirs, Lloyd continues: "A few years ago after a trade union exhibition in Florence there was another small posthumous exhibition dedicated to Dedo Modigliani, who became famous in Paris. In that exhibition there were three or four works, I saw the landscape of Salviano, lent by a baker from Livorno, a failed painter of our group, I knew that the baker had lent it with a guarantee of insurance from the Exposition for many and many thousands of Lire ". With that sentence Lloyd refers to another young Micheli's student, Aristide Sommati, a baker with a passion for painting who in 1953 sold this painting to the Municipality of Livorno.
From Sommati coming also his portrait drawn by Modigliani in 1909 in Livorno on headed paper of Caffè Bardi jokingly signed by Benvenuti, in which the artist's hand is clearly visible.
Involuntarily, Lloyd's memories help us to consolidate the authenticity of La stradina; thanks to these reminiscence, assertive as a reliable testimony, we can find the origins of this painting; the provenance is well documented and validated by the various changes of ownership: this is one of the cases in which the story of a work becomes essential to establish its authenticity.
If we observe the work painted by Lloyd in a "winter day at sunset time" (1895 - 1899), also in display at Fattori Museum in Livorno, seems not validated the fact the two artists were painting "side by side", moreover, is not even possible to find the same light condition we find in the landscape attribuited to Modigliani. Probably, it was been the latter detail to solicited Clemente Fusero's imagination to cook up the famous phrase "hey boy, you do not see the light!" A sentence 'pronounced' by a non-enthusiastic Guglielmo Micheli to the young Modigliani, while the old Master Giovanni Fattori - wrote always Fusero in his novel - had showed his admiration for the landscape, represented in an original way, but not for another work realized in an accademic style:
the "portrait of a child".
The necessity of a definitive catalogue raisonné of Amedeo Modigliani's works.
With the approach of the centenary of Modigliani's death in 2020, the number of experts or considered as such, is increasing in a really amazing way. We are facing to many characters ready to wage a war to take over the leadership of the 'top Modigliani expert' to see their credibility recognized as they await this great event which, in all likelihood, it will not fail to stir up scandals and speculations against the great artist and the visitors.
It seems clear that the new trend of these pseudo-expert, is to exploit science, each one proposing its own scientific protocol, with the purpose of giving credibility to the works they have certified trying then to introduce they into the art market. Scientific methods totally questionable, especially when the right standard of comparison are not available (sampling of the pigments on the works in the different periods of the artist activity), and certifications with value zero in anticipation of a hypothetical - as unlikely - sale.
The result of this situation is under the eyes of all: the Modigliani artistic production has grown out of all proportion in the last years. Many works jumped out of nowhere, without slightest historical trace and/or provenance (when these requirements are provided, they are forged), without a sender and last but not least, infinitely distant from the unique, unmistakable and inimitable style of the artist. This real depredation of the artist's works it originated thanks to the huge incompetence of various characters who have dealt with this artist, whose have inserted, and continue even today to include in catalogs and in exhibitions, obviously for fraudulent purposes, a series of fake works producing in this way confusion around the artist, among fans, insiders and art historians too.
If we want, the lack of action by the abovementioned characters regarding the fake works exhibited at the Ducal Palace in Genoa, is a clear demonstration that their intention are not to defend the image and works of the artist, but only to wait for a very improbable error from the experts who have denounced this enormous shame: Carlo Pepi e Marc Restellini for Modigliani's works, and Marc Ottavi for the works of Kisling.
The Genoa scandal it turn out essential to understand the extremely important role of the analysis of pigments and supports in art authentication research. About Modigliani's paintings, most of which are in Paris (of the 337 paintings cataloged by Ceroni, 114 were in France and 104 in U.S.), there is no more reliable scientific protocol in the world than the one made by the Institut Restellini, also because no other experts (in scientific field) except the French expert Marc Restellini, had the opportunity to study scientifically the works of the collections curated by him (ranging from P. Alexandre to L. Zborowski) and that gave rise to a corpus of chemical analysis that covering practically the whole pictorial production of the artist from Livorno. Speaking of which, the Institut Restellini, after Paris, have recently open branches in New York, London, Dubai and in Switzerland where it has took over the structures and the scientific staff of the SGS laboratory of the free port of Geneva, a world leader in inspection, verification, analysis and certification.
The Ceroni is the most reliable catalogue to date, although it is well known that the author, in his two publications, had only authenticate paintings he had personally seen in Europe on some of which he had expressed doubts about the authenticity (such as those exposed to the Charpentier gallery in 1958). In addition, Ceroni was an Italian appraiser and critic, but never an art historian. His background does not stand comparison with today's so called catalogue raisonne's high academic standard. Further more, his source was only from the collectors during that time, it is not possible to trace back to the artist's atelier or the backgrounds of the early dealers. For example, Modigliani's first great patron and friend, Paul Alexandre had an incredible collection of Modigliani's documents, but had never gone public for a long time until 1993, when they were made public with the exhibition of a large group of the drawings at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. It is thus evident that the art market needs more professional authentication to supplement Ceroni's work. For this reason we can therefore considered it, without diminishing its value, as an unfinished work.
As everyone knows there is a strong need to clean up and make order on Modigliani works through a new and complete catalogation on the artist work, and I am sure that Marc Restellini, for the reasons previously mentioned, is the only expert who can complete this project being equipped of undisputed professional competence, and of undoubted moral integrity since he is an expert outside of the art market. This is to reply to the emails that I receive from persons they ask me information on Modigliani works.
Marc Restellini identified Modigliani's dozens of fakes and even received death threats while working on the artist's catalog raisonné. Undaunted, he renewed the request for the destruction of the fakes in a new interview with the French daily Le Monde also taken up by Artnet:
Marc Restellini interviewed by Le Monde:
This specialist of the Italian painter, who has identified hundreds of works made by forgers, require for their destruction.
Former director of the Pinacotheque Museums in Paris and Modigliani expert, Marc Restellini works on the production of a catalog raisonné of the Italian painter. He contributed, with the Italian collector Carlo Pepi, to bursting out a sensational scandal in Italy, in March, after having denounced the presence of many fakes in an exhibition in Genoa.
Modigliani is famous to be one of the most forged artists. For what reasons?
This is not an isolated case: Corot, for example, is much more. But Modigliani is undoubtedly among the most tried to reproduce, probably because seems "easy" to make a Modigliani.
An artist almost impossible to forge. Since his death in 1920, his evaluation has increased, but the first forger did not appear before 1935-1940.
Some forgers claimed to have forge Modigliani since the 1930s, but these are often unscrupulous people who seek to advertise themselves. Most of the production of the Modigliani fakes dates back to the years 1955-1970. Forgery in large numbers. Four or five forgers return punctually in the documentation we are processing. Where Modigliani's work seems to be a special case, it is that, in the 50s, they are the same catalogers of the painter to endorse and develop fakes.
What are your methods for get an indisputable scientific expertise?
For twenty years I have established a protocol of scientific analysis comparable to what is done in the medical field. Initially it consisted of analyzing a group of paintings recognized as authentic from historical collections and from source documentation (archives) such as those of the merchants or direct Modigliani collectors. Then I developed a protocol of scientific analysis, the same for twenty years, in order to establish a solid comparative basis that allows me to know, month by month between 1905 and 1920, how Modigliani painted. Today I have a corpus with an «imaginometric» base that has never been used. Add to that with a baseline that brings together all archives that are in my possession and you will obtain, in fact, the most reliable catalog possible.
How many fakes have you identified until now?
At least several hundred. The catalogs of Christian Parisot or Joseph Lanthemann, for example, contain a number of dubious works that deserve careful cleaning.
What should be done to stem the proliferation of fakes?
In previous cases, I was wrong to not ask for the destruction of the works. From now on, I will ask it every time I see a public exhibition in which fakes are exposed. And that's because I have always fought the production of fakes that today claim their destruction.
From facebook page of the Institut Restellini published on 10/03/2019:
In the beginning of 2019, news from the Institut Restellini is marked by a strong development: on one hand, it has integrated a scientific analysis laboratory specialized in the examination of works of art, and on the other hand, it has expanded internationally to best meet the demands of expertise.
As well as his marked contribution - during the past two decades - to the world of culture, museums and successful exhibitions, Marc Restellini was also a major pioneer in the scientific area of Art History. First of all, during his studies, when he elaborated, as early as in his Master's thesis, a catalogue raisonné based on the most recent data processing methods, which had never before been applied to that field of human sciences. He then created in Paris I - Pantheon - Sorbonne, under the impulse of Professor Marc Le Bot, a third cycle seminar of methodology in Art History, in order to link data processing to the doctoral students' research. He oversaw that seminar in conjunction with the CNRS (represented by Professor Levaillant) to set up the teaching of the methodologies he had developed for his own research. In 1997, invited by Daniel Wildenstein, he embarked on the challenge to develop new Amedeo Modigliani's Catalogue Raisonné. He was the first to establish an analytical protocol so that every new artwork submitted would have to undergo technical analyses, including pigment identification with X-ray microfluorescence, and the use of infrared reflectography, later employing innovative methods like the digital process of "false colours". It was the first time in France, a private institution would ever create such a standard for a Catalogue Raisonné. With his 600 documentary files on Modigliani's works as well as forgeries, Marc Restellini created a unique comparative calibration, to which he has associated the use of new technologies as they were developed. Marc Restellini has always emphasized the importance of science in the art history field, making the acquisition and development of a stat-of-the-art scientific laboratory, the next logical step in his pursuit.
Founded in 2015, Institut Restellini is a pioneer in the contribution of the most advanced technologies in the field of art history, and documentation, by combining scientific methods with traditional stylistic and historical analysis. Institut Restellini has as its vocation - in total and absolute in-dependence from the art market - to work alongside the best scientists worldwide, on any work of art, and not only on works by Modigliani. It relies, for this purpose, on the scientific analysis of Institut Restellini - Investigation centre in Geneva, which continues a partnership built with the SGS laboratory, Geneva for several years, allowing it to achieve complete analyses of all ancient, modern and contemporary works of art and, by integrating the latest techniques, to create the most scientifically advanced catalogues.
The use of the latest scientific techniques also includes innovative and even revolutionary techniques:
• Complete scientific analysis thanks to digital imaging
• The integration of advanced electronic components, directly associating the work to all of its corpus of electronic and scientific imaging
• Traceability of the works as a means to fight the traffic and stealing of artworks A unique degree of precision Institut Restellini can offer a compliance report, which relies on the results of scientific analyses together with the expert's opinion, as a complete updated record on each work:
• Technical examination report (analysis of the materials and techniques)
• Stylistic comparative analysis
• Documentation: provenance, exhibitions, literature
• Conclusion of the study for state-of-the-art scientific analyses on ancient, modern and contemporary artworks
A laboratory - for state-of-the-art scientific analyses on ancient, modern and contemporary artworks
Institut Restellini - Investigation SA is an autonomous and independent structure, under the license name Institut Restellini, which took over the facilities and scientific staff of SGS Art Services Laboratory in Geneva Freeport. World leader in inspection, verification and certification, SGS has developed and operated from 2015 to 2018 a state-of-the-art technical laboratory dedicated to the scientific analysis of works of art. SGS ceased its activities in the art world at the end of 2018, and the laboratory is now operated by Institut Restellini - Investigation SA since January 1st, 2019. Led by a highly specialized team, the laboratory offers the state-of-the-art analyses of works of art, based on recognized scientific procedures to allow the most objective conclusions regarding authentication. At the same time, Institut Restellini - Investigation is active in the field of research and integrating innovative protocols that will build up the scientific solutions of tomorrow.
Certification of an artwork
Aware that the future of artworks will be guaranteed by the enhanced control over their certification, the Institut Restellini adopts advanced scientific and documentary instruments to ensure maximum traceability and allow a solid certification of these works. Institut Restellini therefore offers its customers, for every work, a compliance report by performing for each of them the due diligence checks of all data concerning the work, namely a summary between the laboratory results and the expert opinion, to establish complete files of certification, from updated data on the work. This task is performed by two independent centres: Institut Restellini - Investigation in Geneva for the scientific analysis and the Institut Restellini - Documentation Centre in Paris.
The certification service includes the folloing services:
1. Technical report which can include:
• Visible light photography, macrophotography, raking light and UV fluorescence photography.
• Infrared reflectography, to detect possible underlying drawings or changes in the composition.
• X-ray microfluorescence (XRF), to identify the chemical elements
• FTIR spectroscopy, for the characterization of organic and inorganic matrixes.
• Raman microspectroscopy, for pigment identification.
• Optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, to characterize the pictorial technique (stratigraphy, pigments).
• Gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS), which allows the separation and characterization of complex organic mixtures, for example in varnishes, binding media and organic colorants.
2. Stylistic comparative analysis:
• Composition (subjects)
3. Documentation report:
• History and provenance
4. Conclusion of the study
A research and documentation centre
Institut Restellini SAS - Documentation Centre is an autonomous structure, under the license name Institut Restellini, dedicated to the research in documentation, historical and photographic archives on works of art. Based in Paris, in the heart of archival and documentation centres and the most prestigious libraries, it has its own unique documentary collection, with a large archive of collectors, museums, and a very thorough photo library. Led by a team of experienced senior documentalists and firstrate cataloguists, Institut Restellini SAS - Documentation Centre is able to retrace the documentary and photographic history as well as provenance, bibliographical references and exhibitions of any work of art, regardless of period or style.