Forgeries Fuel Collector Fantasies

Madeira Beach, FL — For nearly three decades Ken Perenyi made a small fortune forging works by popular 18th- and 19th-century artists like Martin Johnson Heade, Gilbert Stuart and Charles Bird King.

Savvy art collectors of ArtKabinett social network may wish to re-verify that Hudson River landscape hanging in their living room.

In 1998, two F.B.I. agents showed up on his doorstep, curious about a couple of paintings sold at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, ostensibly by the maritime artist James E. Buttersworth but actually his own meticulous creations.

Over the next few years, he says, the F.B.I. continued to keep a close watch on him at his bayside bungalow here, tracking his work and where it sold, and talking to his friends and associates.

Though the authorities never charged him, the scrutiny pushed Perenyi to develop what he calls “a new business model”: openly selling his faked oils as the reproductions of the finest masters.

Now they are bought by Palm Beach decorators, antiques dealers, professionals, business executives and others who want the look of cultured gentility without the price tag.

A fine example would be the painting shown above, Patroclus, after Jaques-Louis David 49" x 67".

His website proudly states: "WHY SPEND MILLIONS AT
SOTHEBY'S AND CHRISTIE'S!!"

Of course there is a small-text disclaimer:

"All paintings offered for sale on this web site whether in the form of a copy, facsimile, fake, forgery, reproduction, recreation or original composition are modern works executed exclusively by Ken Perenyi. All paintings are sold for decorative proposes only."

Presently, the world's most infamous forger is still John Myatt of London (today's Featured Video) who singlehandedly up-ended the British art market. Due to his notoriety, his paintings are now sought by art collectors, and have even had their own museum exhibition.

Art forgery dates back more than two-thousand years. Roman sculptors produced copies of Greek sculptures. Presumably the contemporary buyers knew that they were not genuine.

Classical period art was generally created for historical reference, religious inspiration, or simply aesthetic enjoyment. The identity of the artist was often of little importance to the buyer.

During the Renaissance, many painters took on apprentices who studied painting techniques by copying the works and style of the master. As a payment for the training, the master would then sell these works.

This practice was generally considered a tribute, not forgery, although some of these copies have later erroneously been attributed to the master.

Following the Renaissance, a redistribution of the world's wealth created a fierce demand for art by a newly prosperous middle class.

Near the end of the 14th century, Roman statues were unearthed in Italy, intensifying the populace's interest in antiquities, and leading to sharp increases in the value of these objects.

This upsurge soon extended to contemporary and recently deceased artists. Art had become a commercial commodity and the monetary value of the artwork came to depend on the identity of the artist.

To identify their works, painters began to mark them, these marks later evolved in to signatures. As the demand for certain artwork began to exceed the supply, fraudulent marks and signatures began to appear on the open market.

The 20th century art market has favored artists such as Salvador Dalí , Pablo Picasso, Klee and Matisse and works by these artists have commonly been targets of forgery. These forgeries are typically sold to art galleries and auction houses who cater to the tastes of art and antiquities collectors.