Artist Elmyr de Hory is famous for his fakes. Throughout the 20th century, he forged the likes of
—and did it so skillfully that he managed to pawn off more than a thousand of his own works as those of the greats.
When his deception was discovered in the 1950s, de Hory’s story became an international sensation. Writer and reporter Clifford Irving made him the subject of a 1969 book; five years later Orson Welles released a documentary film about his life. In 1976, while living in Spain and facing extradition to France for fraud prosecution, de Hory took his own life. His works have since become collectibles that are hungrily snapped up at auction.
And now that his fakes are worth something, they’re worth faking, says Winterthur Museum curator Linda Eaton.
She believes one of the paintings on view as part of the Delaware museum’s ongoing show “Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes” is likely the work of another, anonymous forger who was imitating a de Hory fake of a
“It’s like a double negative,” she laughs. “Do two fakes equal a real thing?”
The subject of the painting is a girl from an existent, genuine work by Renoir—which, Eaton says, was the first red flag. “De Hory would do things in the style of” an artist, Eaton explains. “He never really copied something.”