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CURRENT COLUMN

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence
The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

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

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

by Jim Finlay
Finlay Fine Art & Wealth Management
jim_finlay@telus.net

Chapter 22. The Case of the Coy Cornelius Krieghoff

In 2006, my client purchased a painting entitled Trapper Returning at Sunset at an auction house, as a work “attributed to Cornelius Krieghoff.” The auction house may have, without due diligence, offered the work as an “attributed to” to avoid any liability. The same painting appears to have been sold some thirty years earlier by Sotheby Parke-Bernet (Canada) Ltd. as a signed work by Cornelius Krieghoff, meaning that in the best judgement of the listing auction house, it was a work by Krieghoff. About 10 years ago, what appears to have been the same painting was sold at Joyner Waddington's Canadian Fine Art and was listed in their catalogue as a Krieghoff.

Cornelius Krieghoff, Trapper Returning at Sunset

Cornelius Krieghoff, Trapper Returning at Sunset (c. 1860), oil on canvas, 11 x 9 1/4 inches

Most fine art auction houses publish interpretations, under their terms and conditions, as to what is meant by such terms as: attributed to, studio of, circle of, and state that they are “provided for your guidance.” The opinion offered by an auction house is based on their judgement and is not always accurate, however, the public perception still remains that if the auction house declares that a painting is “in our best judgement” a genuine work, then indeed it must be so.

The term “best judgement” is used by major auction houses to declare that a painting is by the named artist, and is the most precise determination of authorship the auction house can offer. This interpretation encourages a premise that the purchaser, when selling the painting, can offer as a declaration of a level of genuineness, the fact that he purchased the work from an auction house contingent upon how it was described in the catalogue.

It is not unreasonable to assume that this perception perpetuates a culture of accepted practice in the marketplace as a means of encouraging commerce. The converse is also perceived as being true, in that if the auction house declares a painting to be “attributed to”, then it is indeed of lesser quality and therefore commands less value than a work by the named artist.

The term “attributed to” has different meanings when used by different art auction houses. Heffel Fine Art Auction House uses the term to describe a work as “executed in whole or in part by the named artist.” Presumably this means the work may be partly or completely painted by the artist. This is a precise definition meant to include works that may have undergone undetermined restoration or conservation over the years (presumably as the result of damage or deterioration) by someone other than the artist. It obviously does not give any indication as to how much of the painting is or is not by the named artist. Therefore, this single category appears to include both indicators of authorship.

Sotheby’s takes a more art historical stylistic approach by using the phrase “in our opinion, on the basis of style, the work can be ascribed to the named artist”. This term suggests precision and unambiguity. It confidently defers to the fact that it is an opinion, however it alludes to the fact that a stylistic investigation has been made and a reasonably credible conclusion reached. In other words, there is a more certain indication that due diligence has been performed.

Fortunately, my client’s Krieghoff has recently been verified by the recognized authority on Cornelius Krieghoff as being by the named artist, and dating from about 1860.

Next: The Case of the Gaspard Netscher

 Mon, Jun 7, 2010