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  Forgery, in art terminology, is a copy of someone else\'s creation passed off by the forger as an original work by the original creator. A forgery (or fake, the law makes no distinction) may, therefore, be distinguished from the various forms taken by the copy, for example studies after the art of the past, emulations, or replicas. Vasari recounts the story of the young Michelangelo making a marble Cupid and then artificially ageing it in order to convince a collector of its antique origin. Although Michelangelo\'s patron, Lorenzo de\' Medici, remarked that in passing it off as an antique Michelangelo would get far more money for it, a mercenary motive seems less important here than the young man\'s pretension to rival the sculptors of antiquity.

A forgery may be perpetrated through imitating the style of an artist or period, or counterfeiting the materials typical of that period (either through reusing old materials or ageing modern ones). In practice forgery most often involves employing both deceptions at once. Having obtained or made materials similar to the object to be imitated, the artist then takes care to imitate the appearance of the work copied, often through reassembling characteristic passages into one new work. This form of copying, known as a pastiche, has the advantage for the forger of allowing the forgery to fit in to an artist\'s oeuvre without duplicating any one work. A further sophistication is when the forger makes a work sufficiently unlike the artist copied in order to tempt the historian to construct a connection between the two, thereby legitimizing the forgery.

Passing off a work as being by the hand of another, inevitably more famous, hand has long been the stock in trade of unscrupulous dealers. However, amateurs and art historians have often allowed their enthusiasm for their chosen artists to sway their judgement. Van Meegeren\'s rather poor forgeries of Vermeer made in the 1940s could only convince an art historian desperate to expand Vermeer\'s slender oeuvre.

Artists have attempted to control the proliferation of forgeries of their work. Albrecht Dürer instigated court actions to prohibit the fraudulent use of his monogram or the unauthorized copying of his work. Claude Lorrain kept a studio book, the Liber Veritas, in which he recorded all his compositions and their location. Likewise the art market and museums, both with a vested interest in protecting their reputations for unimpeachable integrity, have attempted to distinguish the original from its copy. This is done in one of two ways, either with the aid of science, through laboratory tests, x-rays and chemical analysis, or through connoisseurship, which is the ability of an art expert to assess the authenticity of a work from the handling, style, or, more vaguely, the ‘feel’ for the quality of the work. Until quite recently, the approach of the connoisseur has been confounded in the public\'s mind with that of the art historian.

Aesthetically there are several problems with the notion of forgery. It contrasts the ‘genuine’ or authentic work too strongly with its ‘fraudulent’ imitation. The effect of attributing positive qualities to an original, only to contrast it with the negative values of the imitation—lack of quality, skill, conviction—is a normative one which adds little to the understanding of either imitation or model. In fact the inferiority of the copy is not intrinsic but implied on the basis of this binary opposition. MG PD



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