Friday, April 25, 2008


In 1994, a certain Mrs. Roscoe approached Christie's London with a small statue named the Faun, an unglazed stoneware figure supposed to have been made by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903 ) from a self-portrait (picture to the right). Mrs Roscoe had an invoice stating that the Faun was bought in 1917 from a Paris Gallery by a certain Roderick O'Conor, an artist friend of Gauguin. So she started a frenzy of speculation that "this" would be the opportunity of the century : a Faun made by Gauguin from a self-portrait posing as model. Nobody saw the irony of it or tried to think twice : there was an invoice dating back to 1917, there was the name of O'Conor, this great friend of Gauguin and there was such grace in this little faun mimicking Gauguin, it was irresistible.

So Christie's dived for it and put the Faun on auction in November 1994 : it was sold to the London dealer John Pillar for £ 20,700 ($32,500). Three years later, the statue was spooted in John Pillar's collection by the curator of the Art Institute of Chicago (whose name I won't publish by compassion for this poor man) who became keen on buying it. After some more research and horse-trading, Pillar generously consented to part with the Faun-looking-like-Gauguin for the modest sum of $ 125,000, ie a profit of $105,000 in less than three years.

Everything went well to the greatest satisfaction of every expert and museum in the world until Scotland Yard recently revealed that the Faun was a fake made by a family of forgers named Greenhalgh and living quietly in Northern England near Manchester. Mrs Roscoe was nobody else than the mother of the forger Shaun Greenhalgh. Over several decades they have forged documents, copied and sold Art works to the planet in total impunity. Dozens of complaints were however filed to Scotland Yard who never did anything about it. Why ? Shaun Greenhalgh was sentenced to four years in jail.

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