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Art legislation  

Laurie A. Morin

revised by Friederike Gräfin von Brühl

Multilateral treaties and bilateral agreements relating to art, made largely in the latter part of the 20th century. These agreements were set up by nations in response to an unprecedented combination of political, economic, and technological changes affecting the art world, especially the tension between the demand for a free international art market and the need for countries to protect their own resources. This need for regulation is manifested in two important legislative areas: the increasing demand among developed nations for global recognition of their intellectual property rights, and the increasing demand among emerging nations for legislation to protect their cultural properties.

“Intellectual property” is the legal term used to describe statutorily protected intangible rights of artists to their creations. Intellectual property rights are separate from the property rights that are intrinsic to the tangible work (i.e. painting, sculpture, etc.) when it is sold or transferred, and are inalienable from the creator, unless they are expressly transferred. The three most important intellectual property rights are copyright, ...


Bull, Knud Geelmuyden  

Norwegian, 19th century, male.

Born 1811, in Bergen; died 1889.

Painter. Landscapes, mountainscapes, urban landscapes.

Condemned to 40 years of forced labour for forgery and deported to Norfolk Island in the Pacific in 1846, Knud Bull was transferred to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) the following year. Freed conditionally in ...



Paul Duro

Manual repetition of another work of art, executed without dishonest intention. The contemporary notion of Authenticity has tended to obscure the fact that the exercise of copying has been a central feature of art practice since antiquity. Unlike the forger, the copyist produces a work that, while taking another work as its point of departure, is not intended to deceive the spectator or the buyer, although such a work may subsequently be identified and sold as an original. This difference in intention distinguishes the copy from the Forgery; the use of any other methodological or aesthetic criterion may risk confusing the two. Although engravings or photographs after another work of art are obviously copies in one sense, as reproductions they employ a mechanical process that separates them from the manual copies under discussion here (see Reproduction of works of art).

The non-fraudulent copy may be divided into three distinct but not necessarily mutually exclusive categories: the copy as a means of duplication; the copy in art education; and the copy as a starting-point for the creation of another art work (often called ...


Zhang Daqian  

Sarah E. Fraser

[Chang Ta-ch’ienChang Dai–chienzhaihao Dafengtang]

(b Neijiang, Sichuan Province, May 10, 1899; d Taipei, Apr 2, 1983).

Chinese painter, calligrapher, collector, and accomplished forger. Born Zhang Zhengquan, he was from an artistic family and began to paint under the tutelage of his mother, Zeng Youzhen (1860–1936). In 1917, after passing through Shanghai, he joined his elder brother Zhang Shanzi (1882–1940) in Kyoto, where he learned textile dyeing and weaving.

In 1919 Zhang returned to Shanghai and studied with the calligrapher Zeng Xi (1861–1930), who gave him the name Zhang Yuan, as well as with the painter Li Ruiqing (1867–1920), a specialist in Shitao-style landscapes (1642–1707). Both are credited with cultivating Zhang’s distinctive calligraphic hand. Zhang’s intentionally splayed characters, combined with awkward elements such as leans in unexpected directions, have origins in antiquarian studies (jinshi xue), an element central to Zeng and Li’s practice. Li deployed a seal script (zhuanshu) based on bronzes and stone stele. In December ...


Deaccessioning art  

Patty Gerstenblith

Process by which a museum removes an object from its collection. Many of the major European museums such as those in the UK and France are prohibited by national legislation from removing works of art from their collections. However, in rare circumstances, specific statutes permit such removal, for example in the UK with respect to art works stolen during the Holocaust. In contrast to their European counterparts, museums in the United States are legally free to remove works of art from their collections for purposes of sale or other reasons. While state statutes may in rare circumstances restrict alienability, the only general exception is if a donor has imposed a legally enforceable restraint on alienation—that is, the transfer of ownership. However, the codes of ethics and voluntary guidelines of the two major museum associations, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), restrict what a museum can do with the proceeds from the sale of a deaccessioned artwork. The AAMD restricts the use of proceeds to the acquisition of substitute works of art, while the AAM policy allows proceeds to be used for acquisitions and direct care of collections. The penalties for violating these guidelines range from censure to loss of accreditation. Yet, in light of the coronavirus epidemic, these associations have changed their guidelines, thereby casting doubt on the policy basis for these restrictions....



Thierry Lenain

One of many forms of deceit wherein one attempts to make an object pass for something it is not. Within discussions of art, this object is an artwork intentionally misrepresented so as to appear substantially different from what it actually is. The fraud may affect first-degree properties of the work, such as its material constitution, artistic content, or general appearance, but may also be applied to its historical background. In some cases, part of an existing artwork may be retained while other elements are added or removed. The work as a whole can be altered so as to present an alternate reality: it may be made to appear older, or in a better state of preservation, or to represent a different subject (a royal, rather than a common subject for example), and so forth. A similar end can be achieved through the construction of a completely new object disguised as something else; this is what is usually referred to as ‘forgery’ in the narrowest sense of the word....



Donald Wintersgill

Term applied broadly to whatever of the past is considered to hold cultural significance; closer definition has become contentious in the late 20th century. Architecture, the fine and applied arts, and objects of archaeological interest are frequently the physical objects of heritage (literature, academic learning, music, etc being other aspects), although by no means is every building or work of art regarded as significant. Exactly what is deemed part of heritage and thus worthy of preservation depends on prevailing attitudes to art and the art market, as well as notions of statehood and cultural history, and other issues regarding ownership, such as the public right of access to a particular work. The role of museums and the problems of looting form part of these issues.

Since the mid-20th century the European use of the word ‘heritage’ has taken on greater overtones of ‘nationhood’ than before: heritage is not an issue merely of preserving works, but of keeping them within the borders of the country of origin and acknowledging them as part of the nation’s culture. This concept does not appear to have been so strongly formed in the past in Europe, although the basic sentiment in heritage—that artefacts can have a historic, cultural value—can be traced back over millennia. The acquisition of art as a device of power and empire-building exemplifies the sentiment. Victorious Roman armies took booty as a kind of status symbol: the Emperor Titus, for example, returned from Jerusalem with the treasures of the Second Temple. From the Renaissance onwards, the acquisitiveness of collectors and patrons, particularly for ...


Joni, I(cilio) F(ederico)  

Alessandro Conti


(b Siena, July 18, 1866; d Siena, Jan 23, 1946).

Italian forger, restorer and writer. He is best known for his autobiography, a broad panoramic portrait of life in provincial Italy at the end of the 19th century, which conveys something of the disquiet concerning the loss of Italy’s prestige. He also worked as a skilful forger and restorer at a time when the distinctions between the two activities were blurred. Much of his success as a forger was due to the fact that he imitated either the works of lesser painters (such as Sano di Pietro) or the undistinguished works of more famous artists, which could deceive even a connoisseur. A typical example is his copy of Cecco di Pietro’s Agnano polyptych (Pisa, Mus. N. S Matteo), created as a fraudulent substitution for the original (Rome, Pal. Venezia). Few of Joni’s fakes have stood the test of time, despite the fact that he was in contact with such critics and collectors as Francis Mason Perkins and Robert Langton Douglas. Research into collecting and the art market in late 19th-century America has identified Joni’s role as a restorer in such works as ...



Japanese, 18th – 19th century, male.

Born 1747, in Edo (now Tokyo); died 1818, in Edo.

Painter, engraver.

Kokan, a pupil of Harunobu (1725?-1770), one of the great ukiyo-e masters, is infamous as one of the most brilliant forgers of his master’s work, openly admitting his wrongdoing in his autobiography ...


Meegeren, Han [Henricus Antonius] van  

(b Deventer, 1889; d Amsterdam, Dec 30, 1947).

Dutch painter and forger. He studied art at The Hague Academie and obtained his degree in 1914. He became a painter of mediocre talent, though a respected one. It is said that he developed a grievance against the critics who had slighted his work and began to manufacture forgeries of 17th-century Dutch masters, perhaps as early as 1923, in order to avenge himself. In 1932 van Meegeren left the Netherlands and retired to the south of France, where he began experimenting and producing fakes in earnest. His most successful forgery, and perhaps the most famous forgery of modern times, was his Supper at Emmaus (c. 1936; Rotterdam, Mus. Boymans–van Beuningen), painted in imitation of Vermeer, Johannes. The brilliance of the forgery lay in van Meegeren’s decision to represent a work of the least documented early period of Vermeer’s career. Knowing that experts were alert to Italian influences on Vermeer’s work, van Meegeren based his composition on a Caravaggio painting of the same title (London, N.G.; ...


Moral rights of art  

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall

Legal doctrine concerning authors’ rights that protects a creator’s personal, as opposed to economic, interests. These protections include the creator’s right to appropriate attribution and the right to have the integrity of one’s work properly maintained (see also Art legislation).

The law governing authors’ rights in the USA reflects an incomplete understanding of the motivations for human artistry. Copyright law, the body of law governing authors’ rights, rewards economic incentives almost exclusively. From the beginning, American copyright law has been designed to calibrate the ideal level of economic incentive to promote creativity. With the exception of a narrow form of protection for certain types of visual art, copyright law in America does not provide authors with legal protection such as the right to have their works attributed to them, or the right to have their works maintained and presented in a manner consistent with their artistic vision. These rights are known, respectively, as the right of attribution and the right of integrity and they are part of the larger doctrine of moral rights law....


Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica: Forgeries  

Nancy L. Kelker

The earliest imitations of Aztec pottery were commissioned in the mid-16th century by Spanish administrators to satisfy increasing demand for such curiosities in their homeland. They are a mixture of native symbols and European designs in grotesque forms, such as jars with whistles around the rim, or clarinet-like flutes in the shape of a crocodile. With the opening of its borders after Independence, Mexico became a popular destination for European and North American travelers, including Alexander von Humboldt, John Stephens, and Frederick Catherwood, whose published accounts of their exploits encouraged others to explore the Middle American nations and collect artifacts for their curio cabinets, thereby creating a burgeoning market for forgeries. By the late 1820s forgery workshops on Tlatelolco Street in Mexico City were creating black wares that were sold, as authentic, to the tourists at Teotihuacan. These workshops remained in production at least to the 1890s. In the early 20th century, Batres found the Barrios Brothers operating a successful forgery workshop at San Juan Teotihuacan near the archaeological site. Today, similarly crude and fanciful wares continue to be hawked at Teotihuacan and at tourist shops around Mexico City....


Pre-Columbian South America: Forgeries  

Nancy L. Kelker

See also Pre-Columbian South America

Accounts in the colonial histories of the Andes make few mentions of the creation of faked artifacts for the Spanish market. Yet there are abundant examples of Inka-style wooden keros (drinking cups) manufactured during the 16th century that have found their way into museum collections in Europe and the Americas. Although anecdotal evidence, the widespread looting of archaeological sites during the Viceregal period, including the almost entire destruction of the Huaca del Sol at Moche, does suggest that there was an early demand for antiquities. Collector interest was further stimulated by the published accounts of scientific expeditions to the Andes such as those of Alexander von Humboldt (1801–1803), and later Squier (1877). By the second half of the 19th century, Andean forgery workshops were doing a booming business. In 1886, William Henry Holmes remarked on the flood of spurious antiquities coming into the United States at that time, “Peru is hardly less fully represented [than Mexico], as the factories in that country have been at work for a number of years” (...



Victoria S. Reed

Term used for the history of ownership of movable works of art. A complete provenance provides an accurate account of the locations and changes in the chain of ownership of a work of art from the time and place of its manufacture to the present. The more extensive this record is, the more secure the attribution of the work is likely to be. An accurate and verifiable provenance may also be critical in establishing the rightful ownership of a work of art.

It is important to document an object’s provenance for legal, ethical, and scholarly reasons. A deliberately falsified provenance may accompany a work of art that is either inauthentic or legally encumbered, as is often the case with illicitly excavated artefacts and smuggled works of art. Inaccurate provenance information may also be the result of human error, for example, when the histories of two visually similar works of art are confused. For instance, in ...



Noémie Goldman and Kim Oosterlinck

Term for the return of lost or looted cultural objects to their country of origin, former owners, or their heirs. The loss of the object may happen in a variety of contexts (armed conflicts, war, colonialism, imperialism, or genocide), and the nature of the looted cultural objects may also vary, ranging from artworks, such as paintings and sculptures, to human remains, books, manuscripts, and religious artefacts. An essential part of the process of restitution is the seemingly unavoidable conflict around the transfer of the objects in question from the current to the former owners. Ownership disputes of this nature raise legal, ethical, and diplomatic issues. The heightened tensions in the process arise because the looting of cultural objects challenges, if not breaks down, relationships between peoples, territories, cultures, and heritages.

The history of plundering and art imperialism may be traced back to ancient times. Looting has been documented in many instances from the sack by the Romans of the Etruscan city of Veii in ...


Weininger, Salomon  

Gordon Campbell

(d 1879).

Austrian goldsmith, forger and thief. In the 1860s the Geistliche Schatzkammer in Vienna sent five items from its collection to Weininger’s workshop for restoration. Weininger made copies of each item and sold the originals. The best-known artefact was The Holy Thorn Reliquary of Jean, duc de Berry (1400–10; London, BM). The British Museum acquired the original in ...