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Alessandro Conti

[Igino]

(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 ...

Article

(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.; ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...