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   Ingredients of Authentication- Gustave Courbet


What does it take to make a 100 dollar picture worth a million? "An expert opinion!" The journey between both extremes can certainly get muddled... 


Pool Near Ornans
oil on board 22x30 cm

 

 



A number of years ago
I was offered a little oil painting on panel called Pool Near Ornans. It was simply signed Courbet. Although it was an obvious gem, the question was, could it be by the great Realist Gustave Courbet.

             
                                         
Art World’s Dirty Little Secret
                                                                                                        r malcolm setters / graham setters

"From across the room the normally taciturn Dr. Colin B. Bailey seemed instantly possessed as he hastened toward the small oil painting of the intimate little waterfall, Pool Near Ornans. "Is that a Courbet," he urged.

"Yes - you've seen the signature," I replied.

"No!"

Of course he need not have seen the signature, French art was the man's specialty.

One might believe that it is enough that the experienced Dr. Bailey recognized the hand of the artist immediately. He was certainly no mean figure in the art world, being the chief curator at the National Gallery of Canada before moving on to hold the same position for the Frick Collection in New York. Not so, Dr. Bailey's enthusiasm was not enough, there was protocol to be considered. Here again we are confronted with the cataloguing phenomenon or might we say syndrome. This lost little painting which had been in North America for close to a century was likely not seen by anyone of certain expertise for many years. It would need approval from the proper quarter..."

Note: In France the controls on who is an accepted expert are the tightest. Ubiquitous government edict and nepotism are often the premier determinants. Connoisseurship seems to be of secondary importance.

...This was how the story unfolded using email correspondence. The following letter is a reply from the Wildenstein Institute in Paris:

 "Your query re Courbet is well received. Robert Fernier published two volumes of the Courbet catalogue raisonné with the Wildenstein Institute in 1977 and 1978. The painting whose photograph you sent, apparently, is not included in these volumes.

 After his father's death, Jean-Jacques Fernier resumed his work for a future supplement to the already published catalogue raisonné: I suggest that you apply to him directly [address is enclosed} - I do not have his e-mail address:

 Do not hesitate to contact us again if we can be of help

With my best wishes for your research
Marie-Christine Decroocq
chargée de recherche (catalogues Redon and Modigliani)

                                                                         __________________________________

Dear Messr. Jean-Jacques Fernier,

The following emails between the Wildenstein Institute and myself should help to explain the attached image, Pool Near Ornans. It was one of a group of French paintings that were collected early in the 19th century by an American collector. Please advise me of the best way to get the appropriate credentials for it. Kind Regards

                                                                          ___________________________________

Monsieur,

Je serai à New York du 30 novembre au 5 décembre. Vous pouvez me joindre à l'Hôtel Barbizon au 212.88.4271 où je séjourne.

Si vous souhaitez mon avis sur une oeuvre, il faut me la porter à New York pour son examen, accompagnée de photos et d'une lettre vous identifiant...

It was from this point that things began to get toublesome and suspicious... to be continued...   JMWT bequest news corresp Home discovery style provenance connoisseur Orrock forensic signature Butlin legal catalogue portrait sting Courbet Roach old St Durer medal Unknown Turner ngc shipwreck IFAR/RRP institutional copies book your story Hand C theory C dialogue expertise expert Kayser                                          

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