Authorities seized an alleged Bronzino painting connected to an international forgery scandal.
A painting of Saint Cosmas attributed to Bronzino. Courtesy the Alana Collection.
A painting attributed to Bronzino has been seized by French officials in the latest development in an international Old Master forgery scandal. Saint Cosmas (ca.1544) was on loan to the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris for an exhibition focusing on the U.S.–based Alana Collection, a rich trove of Renaissance art. Upon the show’s closure on Monday, officials took the work due to its possible connection to French art dealer Giuliano Ruffini. An arrest warrant for Ruffini for connections to numerous sales of purported forgeries was issued last May, while his accomplice, Italian painter Lino Frongia, was taken into custody last September.
Chilean billionaire collecting couple Alvaro Saieh and Ana Guzmán purchased Saint Cosmas in 2011 for the Alana Collection, whose moniker comes from combining the couple’s first names. Philippe Costamagna and Carlo Falciani curated a 2010 Bronzino retrospective at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence that showed the work; Costamagna said that Ruffini had presented Saint Cosmas to him in Paris, where the curator authenticated it as a genuine Bronzino.
The catalogue for the Musée Jacquemart-André exhibition said Saint Cosmas was sold to Saieh through Hauser & Wirth in Zurich, though the mega-gallery categorically denied this claim and said “the provenance is therefore fraudulent,” according to The Art Newspaper. Saieh and Guzmán said both Saint Cosmas and another Bronzino work were purchased “on the English art market from dealers we trust who informed us of this provenance.”
Six works have been seized by French authorities in connection to the alleged Ruffini forgery ring so far; in 2015, Sotheby’s reimbursed a collector who had purchased a forged painting of Saint Jerome that was formerly owned by Ruffini. Another legal battle in London centered around an alleged Frans Hals, also sold by Ruffini.