The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Friday, August 22, 2014


Israeli Art Detectives Crack a Forgery Riddle
By: Matti Friedman, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP).- The portrait of a glum, bespectacled man was about to go on auction in Amsterdam when someone at Sotheby's noticed a problem: Israel's national museum owned precisely the same painting.

One of them had to be a fake.

For curators at the Israel Museum, cracking the riddle of the Jozef Israels self-portrait and its mysterious twin meant tracking down a tale about a forgotten Turkish pasha and an eccentric Jerusalem artist, and using infrared cameras to peer underneath the painting's muted oils.

The impostor, they now say, has been revealed. It is nearly as old as the original, and its provenance is more interesting.

Israels, the man who painted the original, was a renowned Dutch artist of the 19th century whose style drew comparisons with Rembrandt and whose works today regularly fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

The first self-portrait, the one in the museum's collection, had been given by Israels himself to a friend, Boris Schatz, in 1909. Schatz, born in Lithuania and trained in Paris, was a Jewish artist and occasional boxer who discovered Zionism and abandoned the European art scene for Jerusalem, then a Mideastern backwater, where he founded a visionary art school in 1906 and became known for his trademark white robe and pet peacock.

After Schatz died, part of his collection, including the portrait, eventually became the nucleus of the Israel Museum.

Last year, Jimmy Lewensohn, Schatz's great-great-nephew and the executor of his estate, decided to sell a painting that had long been in the family's private collection: a Jozef Israels self-portrait from 1909. Hoping to donate the proceeds to the Israel Museum, he arranged for Sotheby's to auction it in Amsterdam.

Then the auction house called him in Israel. "Is it possible that this painting is not the original?" a representative asked, Lewensohn recalled, the implication being that he was knowingly peddling a fake. "This wasn't a pleasant conversation," he said.

The painting Lewensohn wanted to sell was where it had always been — in the family's possession. But when he called the Israel Museum, the European art curator checked and informed him that he must be mistaken: The painting was in the museum. It was not regularly on display, so Lewensohn did not know it existed.

The curators placed them side by side in a museum restoration lab. They were stumped.

The paintings showed the same man with the same beard, hat and glasses. They had the same expert brush strokes, down to the little rust-brown streak beside the nose. Both were dated 1909 and signed Jozef Israels.

Because the new painting originated in the same place — the Schatz family — its claim to authenticity rivaled that of the museum's version. So which one was the fake? Would the real Jozef Israels please stand up?

The curators quickly figured out where the forgery must have originated: with Boris Schatz himself. Only he would have been able to leave one painting to the museum and another to his own family. But there was no indication that Schatz had ever tried to sell or exhibit it before his death in 1932, and why would Schatz, a respected artist in his own right, forge a painting?

The attempt to unravel the mystery led to a strange story recorded in a 1972 book by art historian Heinrich Strauss which pointed back to a time when Palestine was part of the empire of the Ottoman Turks.

During the First World War, the story went, Schatz's art school in Jerusalem was visited by a high-ranking Turkish official, Jemal Pasha. The Turk was taken with the portrait, the school's most valuable European piece, and informed Schatz he would be back the next day to take it.

Rather than lose one of his best paintings, Schatz sat down overnight and painted a copy to present as the real thing, according to Strauss. But the commander never showed up, the Turks were booted out of Palestine by the British not long afterward, and the fake remained in the collection.

Yigal Zalmona, one of the museum curators, believed this solved the riddle. "This was a forged painting made to save a real painting," he said.

Another curator, Shlomit Steinberg, saw holes in the story. Schatz, whose Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design remains Israel's most prestigious art school, might have been skillful enough to pull off such an expert copy, she said, but could not have done it overnight; oil paints can take months to dry.

"The threads of this story do not quite fit," she said. Instead, she has a different theory: that the painting was a copy done as an art exercise by Schatz or one of his talented pupils.

Both explanations were plausible, but neither indicated which painting was the fake. This required the expertise of the museum's senior conservator in charge of oil paintings, Ghiora Elon.

"I am like a military tracker, but for art," Elon said. "There are many signs in paintings that the untrained eye doesn't see and we do."

Elon and his team scanned both paintings with an infrared camera but saw nothing of interest.

Elon then looked closely at both paintings, focusing on the glasses and the hat. Those details looked nearly identical when viewed frontally. But in the newly arrived portrait, when viewed from the side, they lost their distinct shape and appeared to have been done by a less skilled artist or by one working in a hurry.

Then Elon checked the fabric. The recently discovered painting was painted on cotton. The museum's was done on linen, a more expensive material far more likely to have been used by a wealthy painter in Europe than by someone working in a poor city like Jerusalem.

The museum's painting was the real thing, Elon concluded. The new arrival was the fake.

But rather than competing with the original, the fake only adds to its mystique, elevating the portrait into an enigmatic player in forgotten history.

For now, both paintings remain on a table in a museum back room, wearing identical poker faces and looking as if they were always meant to be together.


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Jerusalem | Israel Museum | Jozef Israels | Jimmy Lewensohn |


Last Week News

May 22, 2010

Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay Opens at the de Young Museum

Paris Heightens Museum Vigilance After Big Heist at Museum of Modern Art

Getty Museum Reopens North Pavilion Galleries with a Major Reinstallation

Enchanting British Watercolours & Paintings for Sale at Christie's

Guggenheim Museum Publications Receive Excellence Awards

Baroque Cabinets and Exceptional Sculpture Highlight Christie's Sale

Drawings 1963-1977 by Donald Judd at Maloney Fine Art

An Earl and Countess for the National Gallery of Victoria

Imperial War Museum Launches Innovative Explore History Centre

Artists Establish a Dialogue with Modernist Architects or Designers in Exhibition

Portland Museum of Art's Winslow Homer Illustrations to Debut Online

British Artist Claerwen James Debuts Her Work in NYC at Flowers

Morgan Exhibition Explores the Romantic Movement's Influence on Landscapes

Iconic Work by Richard Avedon and Vintage Edward Weston, Lead Fine Photographs Sale at Bonhams

Struggling Statue Maker Feels Economic Heat

Mexican Codices will be Digitalized for their Study

Site-Specific Installation by Situ Studio to Inaugurate Newly Renovated 10,000-Square-Foot Gallery

Guggenheim Museum Appoints Jeffrey Weiss as Curator, Panza Collection

Phillips de Pury & Company's London Photographs Sale Totals 901,375 Pounds

May 21, 2010

Five Masterpieces Stolen in $123 Million Paris Museum of Modern Art Heist

Exhibition Set to Reveal a New Picasso for a New Time

Getty Puts on View Painting Rescued from Abruzzo Earthquake

Rare Tintin Artifacts to Go Under the Hammer at Piasa Auction House

2010 Royal Institute of British Architects Award Winners Announced

From Boston to Singapore - A New Director for the Asian Civilisations Museum

Alex Katz Presents a Major Work to the Brandhorst Foundation

Sotheby's to Sell Three of Pablo Picasso's Greatest Prints

Art Fair Tokyo Announces Takahiro Kaneshima as New Executive Director

Craig Ruddy's Portrait of Warwick Thornton Wins Archibald People's Choice

Lewis Chessmen Open Scottish Tour at National Museum of Scotland

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Announces Opening of New Wing on November 20

Hammer Museum Present New Sculptural Work by Architect Greg Lynn

Mixed Media Paintings of Korean Artist Hyun Ju Park at Causey Contemporary

Images from the Khodorkovsky Trial Make U.S. Premier

Most Extensive Overview of Michael Schmidt's Work to Date at Haus der Kunst

Yael Bartana Awarded the UK's Largest Art Prize

Van Gogh Museum and Kroller-Müller Museum Organise Van Gogh Exhibition in Japan

California Attorney General Supports Claim for Art Seized in WWII

May 20, 2010

With Disabled Security System Thief Steals Five Paintings from Paris Museum of Modern Art

Archaeological Team of the Warriors of Xi'an Wins 2010 Prince of Asturias Award

Hirshhorn Present First U.S. Retrospective of Yves Klein's Work in Nearly 30 Years

Donor Surprises Florida Museum with a Painting by Georgia O'Keeffe

Exhibition of Recent Work by Zhang Huan at Pace Gallery in Beijing

IVAM Offers Bernar Venet His First Show in a Spanish Museum

Christie's Swiss Art: Masterpieces of Swiss Art from 1800 to 2010

Cyprus: Work Crews Stumble on 2-Millennia-Old Coffins

Warren Langley's Aspire Illuminates an Ugly Site in Sydney

Guggenheim Exhibition Celebrates Late Painter Kenneth Noland

Victorian Paintings on View at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Rare Antique Maps in May 20 Auction Unfold History of Washington D.C.

Tlaltecuhtli Colossal Monolith was Moved to Templo Mayor Museum

New Paintings by Renowned Colorist Ron Ehrlich at Stephen Haller Gallery

Renowned Film Maker Harun Farocki Created Site Specific Work at Osram Art Projects

Monumental Sculptures by Manolo Valdés can be Seen on Broadway

Baroness' Glass Paperweights Smash Estimates to Make 574,080 Pounds at Bonhams

Romain Bernini Debuts His Work in the U.S. at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art

Exhibition by Spanish Artist Javier Riaño at Gabarron Foundation in New York

Venice Art Walk & Auctions to Raise Funds for the Uninsured

May 19, 2010

Earliest Mesoamerican Royal Tomb Discovered by Scientific Team inside Pyramid in Chiapas

Greek Police Seize Two Rare Statues From Two Farmers

Collecting the New: Recent Acquisitions to the IMMA Collection

Sotheby's to Sell Four Important Works by British Master L.S. Lowry

Select Works from the Salander O'Reilly Galleries to be Sold at Christie's

Georgia O'Keeffe Draws Art Lovers to Northern New Mexico

Bonhams to Sell Portrait of Greatest Pre-Nelson Military Hero

Artpace Presents Jens Hoffmann's Photos while Driving Around in Texas

Mickey Smith's New Language at Ogilvy & Mather's Chocolate Factory

Dutch Artist Lily van der Stokker Exhibits at Tate St. Ives

Jen Bekman Gallery Presents Thirty-Seven Photographs by Gregory Krum

Iceberg with Dutch Artist Ap Verheggen Artworks Breaks Loose

Oxford University Museum of Natural History Celebrates 150th Anniversary

Numerous Historical Curiosities and Rarities to Highlight Coins, Medals and Banknotes Auction

Kabul's Street Photographers Fade into History

Vienna Hosts Art and Architecture from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

High Museum of Art Announces First Academic Affiliation with Brenau University

Stories, a Captivating Mix Media Show, Opens at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Jerusalem Museum Excavation Damages Bones

May 18, 2010

Museo Picasso Málaga Explores the Symbolic Importance of the Horse in Picasso's Work

Sotheby's Unveils 40 Highly Revealing Letters by Rene Magritte

Saved for the Nation: Baroque Masterpiece Goes on Display at the National Gallery

Getty Explores the Works of Late 17th-Century Celebrated French Printmakers

New Works on Paper and Recent Paintings by Philip Taaffe at Gagosian

Jimi Hendrix's Home to Open as Exhibition Marks the 40th Anniversary of His Death

Art Comes of Age as an Investment for the Rich and Famous

Christie's in London to Offer Works of Art from the Althorp Attics

Swiss Artist Sylvie Fleury Presents Wall Piece at Lenbachhaus

Original Library from Prince Charles's House for Sale at Bonhams

Sotheby's to Sell Tagore Collection of The Dartington Hall Trust

Christoph Büchel Donates the Installation Pausenraum to the City of Kassel

Never-Before-Seen Collection of Soldier Artwork to Debut in Philadelphia

Royal Couple Visits Double Infinity Exhibition at Dutch Culture Centre Shanghai

Have You Ever Wanted to Let All of Sunset Boulevard Know Whether or Not You're in Town?

2009 Rapapport Prize Winner, Tal Mazliach, Exhibits at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Even Buying Art is Art with New Financial Product

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Appoints Scott Gardiner as Public Relations Manager

Show Features All the Morgan's Works by One of the World's Iconic Artists

Kirk Savage is Awarded the 22nd Annual Eldredge Prize

May 17, 2010

Thousands of Museums in Europe Celebrate Night of the Museums with Extended Hours

Police in Argentina Recover 77 Paintings Stolen Last November

Italian Researchers Say They May Have Found Caravaggio Bones

Arts Commission Presents Zhang Huan's Colossal "Three Heads Six Arms"

Akron Art Museum Acquires Two New Artworks from Pattern ID Exhibition

Heather Rowe Reconfigures Installation for Exhibition at D'Amelio Terras

New Large-Scale Works by Dutch Artist Piet van den Boog at Mike Weiss Gallery

German Artist Peter Bialobrzeski Exhibits in Shanghai at m97 Gallery

DeCordova Host Largest-Ever Chakaia Booker Exhibition

Beaty Biodiversity Centre Unveils Canada's Largest Blue Whale Skeleton Exhibit

Museum Partnership Creates Cambodia's First Metal Conservation Laboratory

Delaware Art Museum Presents British Prints, 1800- Present

New Surreal Paintings by Julio Valdez at June Kelly Gallery

Dallas Museum of Art Awarded Significant Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

Txuspo Poyo's Political Utopias at Artium Basque Centre for Contemporary Art

World Premiere for New Documentary Film on Influential British Designers Robin and Lucienne Day

Oksana Prokopenko to Show Mosaic Icons at the Ukrainian Institute of America

Short List for 100,000 Pound Art Fund Prize 2010 Announced

MCASD Adds New Works to Collection at 2010 Collectors' Dinner

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Mystery over massive Alexander the Great-era tomb unearthed in northern Greece

2.- An ancient money box containing a large rare hoard of coins found in Israel

3.- Robin Williams' portrait installed today at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington

4.- The Baltimore Museum of Art announces three new contemporary exhibitions in fall

5.- New Aspen Art Museum designed by architect Shigeru Ban opens to the public

6.- New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art launches 82nd & Fifth app in 12 languages

7.- MoMA online-only publication features new research on Pablo Picasso and Cubism

8.- Volunteers needed for massive Smithsonian digitization project

9.- Tate Britain welcomes home John Everett Millais's Ophelia and Rossetti’s The Beloved

10.- Bogart estate: Hollywood golden age icon Lauren Bacall dead at 89 in New York

Related Stories



Israel puts 5,000 images of the Dead Sea scrolls online in a partnership with Google

Archaeologists May Have Found the Earliest Evidence Yet for the Existence of Modern Man

Official Palestinian Report Claims Jerusalem's Western Wall Has No Religious Significance to Jews

Rare Crusader-Era Fresco Unveiled at Israel Museum

Lost Franz Kafka Writings Resurface, Trapped in Trial

Archaeologists Say Tiny Shard Bears Oldest Script Found in Jerusalem

Journey to the Unknown World at the Great Depths of the Ocean Floor at the Bloomfield Science Museum

Camille Pissarro is One of the Stars Among Works Offered By Jerusalem's Matsart

An Impressive Gold Coin from the Reign of Napoleon III was Discovered.

Jerusalem Museum Excavation Damages Bones



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Rmz. - Marketing: Carla Gutiérrez
Special Contributor: Liz Gangemi - Special Advisor: Carlos Amador
Contributing Editor: Carolina Farias

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org theavemaria.org juncodelavega.org facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site