Chapter 5. The case of the Purloined Picasso
As is sometimes the case in my capacity as a professional fine art appraiser, I have the unpleasant task of informing an owner of the dubious authorship of a work in his or her collection.
Such was the case when I appraised a small collection of etchings, serigraphs and lithographs by contemporary artists. I was especially troubled by the only Picasso in the collection. It appeared to be a red and black lithograph, titled, dated and editioned in pencil, lower left, Antibes, Novembre 46, 33/250. The image was of a centaur holding a trident, with a faun playing his pipe and a bacchante with a tambourine caressing an indifferent goat. The overall dimensions of the work were approximately 9.5 x 11.5 inches.
Upon closer inspection, I confirmed the presence of a signature in pencil, which appeared to be similar to that of legitimate signatures by Picasso and also, the fact that the title and date were in pencil. I determined that the image was not a lithograph but a photomechanical reproduction as the size of the image was unusually small for a lithograph.
I proceeded to research the image and discovered that is was not listed in two catalogues of Picassos graphic work as authored by Bloch and Mourlot, however, it was listed as a lithograph after Picasso by Mallen and titled Centaure, faune et bacchante.
The lithographic (after Picasso) image appeared in the publication, Les Dessins dAntibes, published in 1957, as part of a set of 15 lithographs (edition of 200 each), in New York by Gallerie Chalette. The size of the lithographs was listed as 20 ¥ 26 inches and was based on drawings Picasso made at Antibes during November 1946.
Further research revealed that the image, entitled Faune agenouille de profil jouant de la diaule, nymphe debout ay tambourin et a la chèvre, centaure barbu au Trident, was first produced by Picasso in Antibes, as a pencil and coloured crayon drawing on wove Arches paper. It was not signed and is dated on the reverse at top centre and was probably completed on November 1 1946. It measures approximately 20 x 26 inches, and is in the collection of the Musée Picasso, Antibes, France.
Antibes is a small resort town on the south coast of France and was frequently visited by Picasso. During November of 1946, Picasso was indeed in residence in Antibes and produced several drawings where he used the imagery of a centaur, faun and bacchante.
A review of page 97 in the publication Picasso dAntibes, the official catalogue of Musée Picasso, shows the image in my clients collection, the same size, however without the addition of a title, date and editioned number, as well as a signature.
I concluded that my client did not possess a lithograph from this publication as the size and method of reproduction did not correspond.
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