Below is an excerpt from a recent eBay auction of a painting by the art forger Tom Keating.
"Tom Keating was an art restorer and famous art forger who claimed to have forged over 2000 paintings by over 100 different artists. Tom Keating was born in London into a poor family. After World War Two he began to restore paintings for a living, though he also worked as a house painter to make ends meet. In addition, he exhibited his own paintings, but failed to break into the art market. Keating perceived the gallery system to be rotten, dominated by US-led "avant garde" fashion, with critics and dealers often conniving to line their own pockets at the expense both of naive collectors and impoverished artists. Keating retaliated by creating forgeries to fool the experts, hoping to destabilise the system. Keating planted 'time-bombs' in his products. He left clues of the paintings' true nature for fellow art restorers or conservators to find. Keating's own approach of choice in oil painting was a Venetian technique inspired by Titian's practice, though modified and fine-tuned along Dutch lines. The resultant paintings, though time-consuming to execute, have a richness and subtlety of colour and optical effect, variety of texture and depth of atmosphere unattainable in any other way. Unsurprisingly, his favourite artist was Rembrandt. Keating was finally arrested in 1977 and accused of conspiracy to defraud, but the case was dropped on account of his bad health. In 1982 - 1983 Keating presented television programmes on the techniques of old masters for Channel 4 in the UK and jointly wrote the book The Fake's Progress (Hutchinson, London, 1977) with Geraldine and Frank Norman. He died in 1984 at the age of 65. Even when he was alive, many art collectors among celebrities, such as the ex-heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper, begun to collect Keating's work. After his death in 1984, his paintings became increasingly valuable collectibles. Ironically, the same year Christie's auctioned 204 of them. The total amount raised is unknown but it is said to have been considerable. Even his known forgeries (described in catalogues as being "after" Gainsborough, Cézanne or Constable) now attain high prices."
How does this relate to rugs? Forged rugs can be works of art too. If they are good, why shun them? They will be the antiques of tomorrow.
Interesting subject, with a lot of possible developments. I’ll try to shake away my momentary (I hope) laziness posting a few words in the hope of starting the discussion.
Early this year I saw on eBay this “Antique Early 20th century Tuduc Dragon Armenian Kuba Caucasian Rug” and at the end of the auction I duly signaled it on Turkotek:
It sold for $2,850.
According to Wendel Swan it wasn’t even a real Tuduc but a “copy woven in an atelier run by a man named Perna in the Rumanian village of Herman, not far from Brasov, where Tuduc is reported to have done much of his work.”
Wendel added that it was made in the 1980’s and not in "Early 20th century ".
So, it was a copy of a forgery. Not even a real fake, right?
Nevertheless, would you have bought it?
Me? No, not at that price at least.
Forgot to explain who was Tuduc:
Tuduc, Theodor (1888-1983). A Romanian rug restorer and weaver of rug reproductions. Tuduc was born in Cluj, Transylvania and died in Bucharest. Much of his weaving was done in his workshop in Brasov between 1919 and 1945. His exact rug reproductions and creations were aged artificially and sold through intermediaries as authentic. Many of his reproductions were acquired and displayed by prominent museums.
Here is an interesting excerpt from an article in the New Yorker magazine:
We made our last stop as darkness fell, ending up on a backstreet at a storefront with no name on the door and no carpets in the windows. Mehmet knocked, and we were admitted at once.
"These people make the best fakes I have ever seen," Mehmet told me. "If you would rather wait outside, that would be fine. What they make are technically outstanding kilims. Theyare rewoven from old wool, and very few people could tell the difference." I promised to keep my mouth shut this time. Blatant forgery is relatively rare in the rug trade. Nevertheless, sophisticated fakes have made their way into nearly every major museum, large collection, and significant auction house. (The most notorious forger, a Romanian named Theodor Tuduc, was the weaving world's Clifford Irving. Tuduc died almost twenty years ago. One of his fakes hung undetected in the Victoria and Albert Museum for years.)
Inside the shop, two men were sitting at a wooden workbench, wearing jewellers' glasses and weaving on what seemed to be miniature looms. They were staring at photographs of carpets taken from an old Sotheby's catalogue. Nobody offered me coffee or tea. Mehmet started to look through a few rugs, stopping at a giant light-blue saff-kilim (which dealers often sell as family prayer rugs) from central Anatolia. He was obviously taken with the workmanship, and it was clear that the wool had been very carefully distressed. "You could pretend this is real and sell it for twenty-five thousand dollars,'' he said. "I prefer to sell it for three thousand dollars. People should be happy to pay that for something that looks great, is made beautifully, but is not a collector's item."
But will they be happy? I asked. Mehmet seemed distracted, although I could tell that he loved the rug. "Well,'' he said, "to be honest, no. People would rather be lied to and pay ten times as much. It's an aspect of human psychology. I sometimes think that if I charged five times more for a rug, people would be more
eager to buy it. But I can't do that. It wouldn't be honest."
"Then why are we here?'' I asked him as soon as we walked out of the shop. "Why did you just spend seven thousand dollars
on three fakes?"
"Because they are beautiful,'' he replied, looking as if he had just wasted a lot of time on me. "Why else would you ever buy a rug?"
He got a point, doesn't he?
I don't find the copy of the Tuduc rug particularly beautiful either, but the 'real' things must have been quite good, otherwise the museum curators should not have been fooled. However, the Tuduc rugs I have seen, not that many really, have not been that great. Colors were quite dull actually. Here is another example, which recently sold at Sotheby's for $3,000.
Dimensions are 251 x 147 cm.
Yeah, I know “the rug missionary” article.
I think the point is in the last phrase "Why did you just spend seven thousand dollars on three fakes?"
"Because they are beautiful,'' he replied, looking as if he had just
wasted a lot of time on me. "Why else would you ever buy a rug?"
I don’t like colors of the Sotheby’s Tuduc either.
In this range of price ($ 2,850 – 3,000) one should be able to find a fine and reasonably authentic antique rug, anyway.
What I don't yet get is why the fakes (that I know of) are all awkward in some way. I am thinking of the fake that Wendel posted some time ago, the small square rug with four motives on a white ground. Unfortunately, I don't have the image now, but to me it didn't have an oriental look to it.
Another example is the following.
This one was first revealed as a fake and then withdrawn from the Grogan auction. It does look odd, doesn't it? And if so, why fake something like that?
And how about the following piece?
I don't know whether it is a fake, but it does look odd.
the small square rug with four motives on a white ground
Yes, that was the one I had in mind.
How was the Grogan piece spotted as a fake? I don't know. It was just announced as one and then withdrawn. But if you look at the four non-Tuduc pieces, they all look somewhat odd and in a similar way.
What I am still wondering is where are the really good fakes? Maybe this can never be answered because neither a seller nor a buyer would want to reveal their information.
Do you have images of any other suspect pieces?
No, but if you are interested you can find more Tuduc’s rugs here.
What is a fake or forgery? There are many possibilities.
First, it could be an all-new rug intended to look like old rug, whether an actual copy of an antique rug or an innovative design. One variation would be to use old materials such as old jijim wool for pile and/or an old foundation to create a “brand new old rug.”
A fake could have substantial areas of reweave (e.g., taking out synthetic dyes) to increase apparent age.
Or a fake could have rewoven portions so as to create a different style, such as weaving in a niche to create a prayer rug or openings for a saddle cover).
A fake could also involve reduction in size (e.g., to create what looks like a mafrash panel from a small rug).
Various techniques can be used in conjunction with each of these categories, including clipping browns, artificially wearing the rug, chemical treatments, creating patches or treating wool to give it sheen and thus making it look better or older than it is.
Tim asks: Are there good fakes? Here I assume he’s referring to new rugs woven to look old. Some aren’t so good, some are good, some very good and then there are some great ones. We don’t know exactly how many have fooled collectors and dealers, but we do know that it has happened and continues to happen. Many of them will fool the average collector, not just from across the room, but even after a thorough inspection. People who really know will give details of the latest example of fakery (ACOR).
Some of the production coming out of Turkey mimics the shape of the knots, the side and end finishes, the colors, the handle of good old rugs and they are artificially worn so that they are low all over but still “all there.” Indian reproductions of Persian city rugs are sometimes very, very good. I have even seen some that look like painted Saruks that have been stripped for the German market.
Today, the Tuduc rugs would probably be considered third-rate copies or amateurish when compared to current production because of modern attention to detail. They get everything about as right as right can be. The Perna rugs may have copied old designs, but they weren’t worn down and the finishes remained intact. We also don’t know how many other forgers have put out work.
Nearly all of the dealers that I know who sell these new rugs clearly describe them as new. It’s much easier to spot these when you’re in a shop that deals in new rugs, because you can sometime assume that everything is new. But what about when the context changes and you see one in an auction or in a stack of otherwise antique rugs?
One factor that sometimes gives away a new copy is the cleanliness. It’s almost impossible to wash all the dirt and fibers out of an antique rug, with the result that the handle of even a newly washed antique will be just a little different than that of a new rug. But a new rug that is walked on for a while will start to take on the handle and feel of an old one.
These mafrash panels could all be genuine. The Grogan example is a bit of a puzzle. The colors aren’t great and the grayish blue of the field just isn’t the best color to imitate. The design isn’t flashy enough to attract really big bucks, so why would someone commission such a work? It could have been a rug reduced in size to look like a mafrash panel and then one end (presumably the top in this case) was rewoven or the top conjoined to the bottom.
There are old and antique Caucasian pile panels out there. But there aren’t enough of them to group or to permit us to draw many distinctions. A few months ago I saw what I think is an unusual and spectacular Caucasian (?) mafrash panel (?) that anyone would want. But there is very little with which to compare it.
Absent the backs on these or other examples, we are left to assume that they were mafrash panels, but we don’t know that for sure.
This topic of fakes will be of increasing concern to collectors as these new rugs get used and come back into the market. Without inexpensive and accessible scientific diagnostic tools, for some pieces age may be anyone’s guess. Caveat emptor.
What is a fake?
It’s probably hard to pin this down accurately, but I think an important part is that at the time of sale there is the intention to deceive. When Tom Keating sold his paintings, he sold fakes. But today, the same paintings are no longer fakes. They are just Tom Keating’s paintings (in the style of Cézanne, etc.).
It can also work the other way around. A few years ago I heard about an Italian or a German artist who made very good reproductions of Renaissance paintings, and sold them as such. Some art dealer bought his paintings and sold them to a major American museum as Renaissance paintings. Thus, all of a sudden a reproduction became a fake. So, it seems to me that the intent matters.
When I asked, "Are there good fakes?" I meant, are there fakes that can be considered works of art? For example, Chinese antiques have been faked for hundreds of years. Today, these reproductions are collected nevertheless because they are works of art. Tom Keating’s paintings are another example. But the faked rugs shown in this thread wouldn’t make the cut, I’d say.
There are some eBay dealers who sell mostly Caucasian rugs, often in perfect condition. These could be fakes. However, although they are typically good looking rugs, I don’t think they could be considered art. So, where are the really good fakes?
You wrote, "People who really know will give details of the latest example of fakery (ACOR)." Could you provide more details about this?
A little off the main direction of this topic, but still relevant, I think. I own a sculpture that was commissioned to be a fake. It turns out to be a wonderful piece (in my opinion), and had the effect of changing the direction of the subsequent work of the extremely talented sculptor who created it. Anyone interested can read about it here.
Dear folks -
Whenever a discussion of fakes and faking comes up, I cannot resist offering a novel by William Gaddis, entitled "The Recognitions." It is about a painting forger who takes a very moral view of his work.
Cheap copies on ABE:
I recommend it, but beware. Gaddis writes largely in dialogue and doesn't mark things much. You have to gradually "get it" out of the context.
R. John Howe
Fifteen years ago the British Museum put together an exhibition of fakes. It was an incredible show. Fish with rabbit fur, complex mechanical instruments that actually had no purpose, ...
The upshot for me was that fakes had been around forever (even in ancient Egyptian times people already faked mummies to sell to unsuspecting tourists), and fakes can be works of art. Interestingly, one book reviewer of "The Recognitions" on amazon.com wrote, "He [Gaddis] does illustrate that the products of a true craftsman's skill and inventiveness will always survive."
I find it an amazing subject, and thought it would illicit more responses. Hopefully Wendel will tell us more about the most recent fake that surfaced at ACOR.
Sometimes fakes surface as purchases made by major collectors. Then there is more reluctance to talk about them.
Mr. Meyers, who founded The Textile Museum with his personal collection, bought some pieces now estimated to be a century younger than he thought at purchase. They would be VERY collectible today.
But not everyone wants fakes talked about openly.
R. John Howe