2013/11 A painting by Giorgio de Chirico from 1914, declared a forgery by the artist, on auction in New York

We cannot but rejoice in the fact that the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico has recently recognised the authenticity of works which it has obstinately maintained to be forgeries until not very long ago, and for two reasons in particular. Firstly, we have maintained the authenticity of these works for over twenty years and published them as such; and secondly, the recognition of these paintings' authenticity, all of which originate in de Chirico's greatest period, diminishes the credibility of the Fondazione's longstanding theory that the falsification of de Chirico's works could even have started as early as 1926 - a theory against which we have been battling for years.
However, what is most surprising is how the circumstances surrounding the recognition of these works seldom seems to be born of a spontaneous desire to clarify the history of de Chirico's works and shed light on his complex life story. Rather, these "revelations" appear only to be motivated by pressing situations that threaten to jeopardize the reputation of the Fondazione de Chirico's directors on an international level.

 

Le Printemps 1914.jpg

Indeed, this is exactly what happened recently in relation to Le Printemps, an undated, unsigned painting that can be attributed with certainty to 1914. This painting is one of the many authentic works that de Chirico irresponsibly declared a forgery, and has never been recognised by the Fondazione de Chirico. Together with La Vision du conspirateur, 1914, this painting belonged to the collection owned by the heirs of Colette Jéramec, one of the grande dames of Surrealism and the first wife of Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, who later married the film-maker and director of the Galerie Surréaliste, Roland Tual. Both works were originally acquired from Paul Guillaume and were undoubtedly original, but the Fondazione refused to issue a certificate of authenticity. In fact, on page 48 of her article in "Metafisica", 1/2, 2002, Jole De Sanna infers that Le Printemps is a forgery executed by Max Ernst. On page 18 of the same issue, Le Revenant, which originally belonged to the Jacques Doucet collection (and later to Pierre Colle and Yves Saint Laurent), is accused of being a copy used to substitute the original in 1922 by Doucet's art consultant, who was none other than André Breton.

In 2001 and 2008, the Fondazione denied both the Kunstsammlung Nordrehin-Westfalen and the Kunstmuseum Winterthur the right to publish Le Printemps on the grounds that "the work was declared to be a forgery by the Maestro". In both cases, and accompanied by Jole De Sanna in 2001, Professor Picozza had the chance to examine the work thoroughly on occasion of its appearance in the respective exhibitions hosted by the museums. If one considers that only an old customs label is present on the rear of the canvas and that this support is mounted on a stretcher which bears no labels or inscriptions from the time, this would indicate that all necessary information could be gathered without having to take the work down and examine the rear.
Since 2008, after the work's exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, no one from the Fondazione has had the opportunity of re-examining the work, at least not until the middle of September this year, 2013. Had the judgement passed at the time been supported by valid motivations, one would expect this declaration to be made known and maintained, or at least be modified on the basis of new information resulting from subsequent research. This was not however the case as the Fondazione's sudden change in opinion appears to be motivated by decidedly puerile reasoning.
Having belonged to an important collection in Geneva for many years, last summer Le Printemps - together with many other extraordinary works from this collection - was put up for auction in the Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art sale to be held in New York on the 6th of November, but was not accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity issued by the Fondazione de Chirico. On the suggestion of the work's owners, the Sotheby's representatives involved contacted Gerd Roos, Vice-President of the Archives of Metaphysical Art, in order to obtain all of the historical and critical information required to confirm the work's authenticity and for inclusion in the catalogue. The painting was thus published along with these details, which will feature in our upcoming Catalogue Raisonné of de Chirico's Metaphysical oeuvre. This was the first time that an important Metaphysical work by de Chirico would be put up for public auction in an international sale, despite - and indeed, in contrast to - the Fondazione de Chirico's negative judgement.
Nevertheless, at the beginning of the September, with the Sotheby's catalogue printed and ready for distribution, the auction house would make a last attempt, sending both the painting and its relative documentation to the Fondazione in Rome for examination. At the end of September, a gallerist from New York would inform us that "Sotheby's has indicated that the Fondazione is in the process of issuing a certificate which will be in place at the time of the sale and that the Fondazione located the painting in the archive[s]". This last phrase is almost comic as it is extremely simple to locate the painting in the Fondazione's archives and in any case, this "discovery" did not hold any significance in relation to the work's originality, while the document of authentication issued on the 21st of October is even more humorous:

 

The unsigned painting [entitled] Le printemps, oil on canvas, cm 35 x 27,2 (exact measurements), dated to circa 1914, depicted on the front of this photograph has been archived under No. 058/10/13 OT in the archives of the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, as a painting that is believed to be an authentic work by Giorgio de Chirico, considering the opinions expressed by Mr. Antonio Vastano and Prof. Paolo Picozza.
It is noted that a declaration of falsity issued by Giorgio de Chirico, issued in 1968 on the rear of a photographic reproduction of the work, also exists in the archives of the Fondazione.
An in-depth technical and stylistic analysis of the painting - together with reflectographic and x-ray examinations and analyses of the chemical components and fluorescence ordered by the Fondazione -, the evident presence of traces of the composition's preparatory drawing composition, the use of cinnabar and the specific reiteration of other iconographic elements present in other works of from this period, therefore leads to the conclusion that the work can be counted as an authentic works by Giorgio de Chirico.
It is noted that the writing on the stretcher and the canvas (on rear) are apocryphal.
The collection of this declaration signifies that both the applicant and all relative parties accept the regulations of the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico in relation to the archiving of works by Giorgio de Chirico.
This declaration exists as a single original version and no copies or any equivalent document may be issued at any time.

 

Rome, 21 October 2013.


Why do we define this expertise as humorous?
Firstly, we know that other, undoubtedly authentic Metaphysical paintings have been withheld in Rome for more than eight months, without the experts of the Fondazione ever uttering an opinion, be it positive or negative, perhaps because they were not sure which option would be more convenient for them. Secondly, because these declarations seem to attribute decisive, and even conclusive powers to the banal technical analyses that are used as if they were magic formulas (reflectographic, fluorescence, chemical and x-ray analyses), when in most cases, these techniques are not necessary in assessing whether a painting is authentic or not. In fact, these analyses only serve to verify 1) the presence of paint or pigment compounds that do not correspond to the age of the painting (e.g. blues, greens or whites with a chemical composition used only after a certain date); 2) the presence of pentimenti made by the artist during the elaboration of the work, as well as underlying paintings or traces of preparatory drawings, However, given the eulogistic enunciation of these magic formulas in the abovementioned documents, it could seem that the results are the fruit of exams that prove the authenticity of paintings. Lastly, it is not clear what pertinence the presence of an underlying preparatory drawing might have in terms of the painting's authenticity, nor is it clear what significance could be attributed to the use of cinnabar, as this pigment is nothing other than normal vermilion! More than half of all known Metaphysical paintings do not have underlying preparatory drawings, and the eventual presence of such traces can only be given particular significance if one knows of an original sketch that was then transferred onto the canvas, but this is not the case here. In terms of the cinnabar / vermilion, this is one of the most common red pigments that has been in use for centuries, and was used not only by de Chirico but also by countless other artists working in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries...
The conclusion drawn in relation to the presence of similar iconographic elements in other works from the period is also tremendous. In fact, in Paolo Baldacci's monograph dedicated to de Chirico's Metaphysical painting (1997), Le Printemps is purposefully set alongside Le Temple Fatal (p. 246 -247) in order to emphasise the similarity of the iconographic elements in both works, while in the exhibitions held in Düsseldorf and Monaco in 2001 and 2002, these paintings were hung side by side on the same wall: an infallible method used in assessing whether a painting is authentic or not. However, this did not suffice to convince either Paolo Picozza or Jole De Sanna, who later wrote that the work was painted using a technique that recalled the style of Ernst (indeed, the technique of insinuation is characteristic of De Sanna's style).
Instead, President Picozza's most characteristic trait is the nonchalance with which he is able to make certain statements. The "in-depth technical and stylistic analysis" of Le Printemps reminds us of the "careful study" that in 2009 would allow his to declare that Le Revenant from the Doucet collection "could be counted amongst the authentic works", notwithstanding the fact that it had been the Fondazione, and its trusted expert Jole De Sanna - who is defined by Prof. Picozza as "the only person who understands de Chirico" - to have published this works as a forgery only a few years earlier, using it as proof of Breton's conspiracy theory against de Chirico.
Impassible as ever, Picozza did not say a word about this, choosing rather to declare an outright untruth to the newspapers, saying "the Maestro declared [the work] a forgery because he had only seen it in a photograph". In reality, de Chirico's declaration, accompanied by his request that the court order the work's sequestration, would be voiced by the artist in July 1972 as he stood before the painting at a public exhibition in Paris. The artist would lose the trial that followed. Thus it is clear that it is only for this reason that the Fondazione was forced to recognise the painting as authentic "after having carefully studied it".
Again, in the case of Le Printemps, it seems that no such study determined the Fondazione's decision; rather, it was the fear that not doing so might jeopardise the public reputation of the institution's directors.