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February 14, 2011

DIA's "Fakes, Forgeries and Mysteries" Podcasts about Painting Attributed to Claude Monet

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The Detroit Institute of Arts released its fifth podcast on YouTube, "Hello to Tewkesbury Road" to augment the exhibit, "Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries."

Dr. Salvador Salort-Pons, Associate Curator of European Paintings, narrates the story of the painting, "Three Figures Resting Under a Tree," once attributed to Claude Monet. The painting came into the collection at the DIA in 2004 and for this exhibit, the museum decided to look further into the authenticity and provenance of the work. First, Dr. Salort-Pons explains, they conducted a technical analysis of the materials used such as the pigments, the canvas, and the stretcher and found the materials to be consistent with those Monet would have used in 1871, the date attached to the signature on the front of the painting.

The style of the painting did not look like an Impressionist painting by Monet but his signature was on the front and the back of the painting but it is dated from a period when Monet not an Impressionist painter. "He was still young and profiling his artistic personality," Dr. Salort-Pons explains.

They looked at the back of the painting to try to find more information about it, Dr. Salort-Pons continues, and discovered a stamp that said it had been exhibited at the Carnegie Museum of Arts in Pittsburgh. He asked them if they had displayed Monet's "Three Figures Sitting Under a Tree" in the past but they did not find any evidence in their records.

On the back of the painting, they found the number "83707" which they recognized from an art dealer in New York where they traveled and found a card file with the history of ownership of this painting which had been sold by the Parisian dealer Goupil & Cie in the beginning of the 20th century then sold as a painting by Monet in 1947. The card file identified the title of the painting as "Tewkesbury Road."

With this new information, he went through the exhibition files at The Carnegie Museum of Art and found a photo of the painting from an exhibition in 1910 but the artist's signature on the painting was of Sir Alfred East. Apparently, between 1910 and 1947, someone had removed East's signature, forged Monet's signature, and fabricated the provenance. The forger knew in 1871 Monet was in England, the location of Tewkesbury Road. This painting is not by Monet but Sir Alfred East and Dr. Salvort-Pons tells the story of how an art researcher's hopes are challenging while investigating a piece of art.