Green Pigment a Telltale Clue in Art-Fraud Case: Suit

'St. Jerome' contains modern pigment: Sotheby's
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2017 8:12 AM CST
$842K 'Renaissance' Painting Is, Er, Not: Suit
St. Jerome, initially attributed to Parmigianino.   (Sotheby's)

St. Jerome was said to have been painted by an Italian Renaissance master and was displayed at Vienna's national gallery before it was sold at auction in 2012 for $842,500. The buyer apparently overpaid. Sotheby's now says the artwork is a fake, not painted by Parmigianino in the 16th century but by a forger within the last 100 years, reports NPR. Before its sale, some had suspected St. Jerome was painted by an associate of Parmigianino, but all agreed it was 400 years old. When research lab Orion Analytical revealed a $10 million Dutch painting supposedly by Frans Hals to be a fake in October, however, it put all other artworks connected to the same dealer into question, including two others that turned out to be fakes, per ArtNet and the Art Newspaper.

The dealer, Giuliano Ruffini, had also owned St. Jerome. A technical analysis by Orion Analytical's researchers found 21 areas of the painting contained the synthetic green pigment phthalocyanine green. It was "first used in paints nearly four centuries after Parmigianino died" and was not the result of a restoration, according to Sotheby's complaint. Sotheby's is now demanding St. Jerome's consignor, Lionel de Saint Donat-Pourrieres, repay $672,000 he received from the 2012 sale. Meanwhile, Ruffini—who is under investigation in France but has not been charged with a crime, per the New York Times—says he has his doubts about the St. Jerome analysis, citing "experts and curators from the Metropolitan Museum" who vouched for its age. (A work by Raphael may have been ignored for generations.)

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