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CURRENT COLUMN

The Case of the Olympic Posters
The Case of the Olympic Posters

The Case of the Solitary Surrealist
The Case of the Solitary Surrealist

The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt
The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt

The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity
The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity

The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys
The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys

The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard
The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard

The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910
The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of the Archangel Michael Defeating Satan

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2

The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light
The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light

The Case of Leni and the Nuba
The Case of Leni and the Nuba

The Case of the Seductive Souvenir
The Case of the Seductive Souvenir

The Case of the Irish Surrealist
The Case of the Irish Surrealist

The Case of the Developing Dalí
The Case of the Developing Dalí

The Case of Nano-D Technology
The Case of Nano-D Technology

The Case of Dabatable Donations
The Case of Debatable Donations

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of the Long-tailed Monkey

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of Edgar Heap of Birds

Silent Song
The Case of the Silent Song

Aficionado
The Case of Alex and the Art Aficionado

Portrait
The Case of the Privacy of the Publicity Photo

Potter
The Case of the Potter's Portraits

The Case of the Coy Cornelius Krieghoff

The Case of the Political Portraitist

The Case of the Reconsidered Revolution

The Case of the Anabiotic Abbey

The Case of the Phoney Picasso

The Case of Setsuko Piroche

The Case of being on the Forest Edge with Vern Simpson

The Case of Being at the End of the Storm with Loren Adams

The Case of Being: Under the Table with Thomas

The Case of Wyland's Whales on Walls

The Case of A.Y. Jackson's Smart River (Alaska)

The Case of Red Fish with Blue Breasts

The Case of Looe Poole

The Case of Camaldoli

The Case of MS

The Case of the Misattributed Emily Carrs

The Case of the Doubtful Dürer

The Case of the Purloined Picasso

The Case of the Defrocked Duchess of Devonshire

The Case of the First Wife

The Case of the Dodford Priory

The Case of the Unknown Actor

Art Services & Materials


Confessions Back April-May 2016

Signed “SYM” oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

Signed “SYM” oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

Practical Art History
(or Confessions of a Fine Art Appraiser)

by Jim Finlay
Finlay Fine Art
finlayfineart.com

Chapter 51. The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity

A few years ago, a client asked me to identify the creator of the two paintings pictured below. Both works were oil on canvas and monogrammed “SYM” in the lower right. One showed the date “89,” meaning 1989.

Generally speaking, a signed or monogrammed painting is accepted as having been painted by the individual signing or placing his or her monogram on the work, and is thus thought to be an authentic piece. There are other accepted phrases that reference degrees of authenticity, such as “attributed to,” “in the manner of,” “school of” and “bearing the signature of.” Each identifier represents a hierarchically qualitative opinion as to authenticity, based mostly on connoisseurship.

The two paintings shown here are reminiscent of the late 19th century works of Alfred de Breanski, Sr. Although their subject matter, composition, choice of palette and point of view are similar to those in de Breanski’s works, they appear to have been executed much later, as de Breanski’s signature is absent, and the monogram “SYM” and the date of 1989 appears in its stead.

Research has since indicated that the artist Sofronio (Sym) Ylanan Mendoza used the monogram “SYM” to sign his paintings. Born in 1934 in Cebu City, Philippines, Sym immigrated to Canada in 1981, settling in Richmond, BC. In order to verify authenticity, I contacted the artist’s daughter and asked her to confirm that her father had created these paintings. I received a reply a short time later, informing me that these pieces were not by her father.

The only conclusion I could reach was that someone had added the “SYM” monogram to these paintings not executed by Mendoza in order to present them as authentic when they were not.

Recent works by Mendoza are stylistically very different, although it would appear that his earlier works did share some stylistic similarities with these ones. So the problem becomes how to reconcile the variety of relativistic permutations that are possible when calling a work of art authentic. Is it enough to accept the artist’s contention, or did the artist have another agenda for perhaps deliberately denying he painted them?

The contemporary philosopher Bruno LaTour has theorized that there are no facts, such as “authenticity,” that are separate from the subject’s fabrication. He suggests that facts are relational to the context of their production, and are similar to the act of fetishizing. LaTour seeks to free us from the tyranny of the scientific, subject/object “mumbo-jumbo” particular to Western civilization, in favour of an authenticity that depends on other factors, such as culture and experience.

So in this sense, the signature or monogram on a painting fetishizes the artwork by imbuing it with the belief of authenticity. It is no longer just paint on a canvas, but a culturally significant artefact that has special economic and cultural powers because of the signature.

Next: The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt

Signed “SYM” oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

Signed “SYM” oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

 Sat, Nov 19, 2016