Since Ceroni died in 1970, leaving his project unfinished, three more catalogues raisonnés have been published in an attempt to round out the scholarship on Modigliani. One, published by Joseph Lanthemann, is considered unreliable. “His has the opposite problem from Ceroni’s, in that he reproduced any painting that looked vaguely like a Modigliani,” Wayne noted. Christian Parisot, a French art historian who was granted the legal right to authenticate works by Modigliani’s daughter herself, had published three of four volumes of his catalogue raisonné when his credibility began to unravel. In 2010 he was found guilty of faking 77 drawings by Modigliani’s mistress; in 2013, he was taken to court again, this time accused of falsely attributing works to the artist that, in total, were worth €6.65 million.
“Some of the catalogues are completely faked, some are partially faked, and some include fakes by the guy who owned the catalogue,” New York dealer and financier Asher Edelman told Artsy of the non-Ceroni inventories. “Some of the works were even paid for to have them entered into the catalogue. So they’re all suspect.”
Why does the catalogue raisonné matter?
Today, catalogues raisonnés play a significant role in an artist’s market—experts note that a trustworthy inventory of works helps stabilize prices and reassure collectors. In the case of a work by Modigliani, if it’s not in the Ceroni catalogue “it loses most of the possibilities of being sold well,” Edelman said. Several years ago, he said, his gallery acquired a Modigliani painting that wasn’t on Ceroni’s list. Although it had extensive provenance history, had appeared on the cover of a retrospective catalogue printed immediately after the artist’s death, and was approved by longtime Modigliani scholar Marc Restellini (also the man behind the upcoming catalogue raisonné), it sold for a fraction of its potential value. “No one disagreed with us that it was a Modigliani—except that what would have been an eight- or 10 million-dollar picture could never be sold for more than two,” Edelman said.