Not long ago, I received a catalog from the well known auction house Sotheby’s. It contained a photograph of a still life that I easily recognized as a copy of a Frans Mortelmans painting (Antwerp 1865-1936). To my great surprise however, I noticed that the painting had been signed: “C. le Mair”, in large letters.
I have not copied a painting since I was very young, and, without any doubt at all, I definitely did not paint this particular piece. Therefore, I was surprised and amazed, that an auction house of such renown as Sotheby’s did not take the time to verify this lot a bit more closely. It may not be unusual and surprising and it has happened before that a painting being offered contains my signature, but is not mine. I have been visited by people who have become victims of these fraudulent business practices more than once. Moderate amateurs or less honorable salespeople are likely trying to earn some extra money in a very unsympathetic way. On the one side they speculate on my renown (built up over years of hard work and many trials and errors), on the other side at the lack of knowledge on the part of their customers. I would like to suggest therefore that admirers of my art who are considering buying one of my paintings get in touch with me so that I may inspect their anticipated purchase, especially where it concerns major amounts of money.
The great difficulty is that it is almost impossible to fight this dishonesty. A practical example: A lady visits me with a small format still-life (a Jan van Huysum copy) that has my signature on it. I never made this painting, so I send her back to the art dealer to get her money back (3500 Euro). But this arrogant person swears that this painting has definitely been painted by me and accuses me of wanting to null the sale, so that I may have myself a new customer. More than that, he challenges me to show him rock hard evidence that I could never have created this painting.
So that's that then, because how am I going to do that? Who has the knowledge of my profession and my style and method to detect such forgeries? I myself can see the fraud immediately, but when push comes to shove, for example in a court case, I may not be able to prove anything. The only thing I can do is advise potential buyers of my artwork to contact me first so that they can avoid being saddled with a forgery.
Do you have, or would you like to receive more information?
In Europe: Please contact Ms. Erna Saris, phone 011-31-6-5090-6680 or e-mail your request
In the U.S.A.: Please contact Ms. Marika van Vessem, phone 401-848-5768 or e-mail your request. Or contact Mr. Robert Harris at DE Fine Art, Atlanta phone 770-300-9733 ext. 106 or e-mail your request.