Major Art Trove Now Believed to Be Fakes

German 'hippie' behind multimillion-dollar forgeries, say investigators
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Nov 8, 2010 5:32 AM CST
Wolfgang and Helene Beltracchi usually sold art privately, but at least one of their sales was handled by Chistie's   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A treasure trove of some 35 Expressionist artworks supposedly worth millions are now believed to be forgeries engineered by a one-time German hippie who has been living like a king, reports Der Spiegel. The art world had been amazed as the "lost" artworks from the early 20th century surfaced over the last 14 years. Wolfgang Beltracchi and his wife, Helene, allegedly tracked down the works in the secret collection of an obscure German businessman.

The couple is now being held in prison, suspected of Germany's largest-ever art fraud with fakes sold around the world. Investigators believe at least some of the paintings may have been created by Beltracchi himself, who has been described by a friend as "touched by God," adding: "He is extremely talented, and can paint everything from memory." Beltrachhi may escape prosecution for a large portion of the scam because the statute of limitations for his suspected crimes is 10 years.

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