Which historical works could conceivably be forgeries?

How many of our great works of art are undiscovered forgeries?

My immediate response to this was, probably not many, because we know that for instance, a Bach sounds like a Bach, and a Picasso looks like a Picasso.

But then I remembered the story of Peter Paul Biro and was less sure in my footing.

However, if someone told you that one of your favorite writer, artist, or composer’s works had just been discovered to be faked, which one would you immediately suspect? Is there one that just doesn’t quite seem right to you? A Bach that isn’t up to the usual Bach standard, etc? That perhaps a small part of you would rest easily knowing was a hoax?

(I wish I could give an answer but I’m not cultured enough! I feel like I haven’t studied any of the greats closely enough to be able to distinguish outliers.)

Although, come to think of it, I have read some Shakespeare and I would be a little relieved if I found out he didn’t write The Tempest and all the English teachers could admit that they had always felt a little uneasy about it.

Taking my response as an example, this is obviously all up to one’s individual opinion.

Not sure what you mean by ‘faked’. As in composed/painted by someone else and attributed to a famous artist? That’s happened. But in music atleast, it’s not really fakery, as in a malicious effort to pass off a work as someone else’s, just due to lack of clear documentation and/or casual cataloging.

For Bach, we have the Minuet in G. For Mozart, Symphony No. 37.

Picasso’s a bad example. It’s virtually certain that some of the works attributed to Picasso weren’t done by him.

Picasso was a famous modern artist in his own lifetime. So sometimes, rather than go through the long and difficult normal process of authentication, dealers would take a shortcut to authenticating a supposed Picasso artwork; they’d bring it to Picasso himself and ask him if it was his. And Picasso would say yes or no and that was the end of it.

Except it was eventually found that sometimes Picasso lied. If somebody brought him a forgery and he liked it, he’d say it was his.

It worked both ways. Isn’t he famous for saying “I can fake a Picasso just as well as anyone else”?

If I remember correctly, he said this while authenticating a number of works at an art dealers warehouse. After identifying a piece as a forgery, the art dealer said something like, “But I saw you paint this!” Then Picasso made the famous quote.

As a not completely unrelated aside; Elmyr de Hory (who faked a number of Picassos as well as many other artists). I highly recommend the bizarre Orson Welles documentary about Elmyr; F For Fake

In one of the Young Indiana Jones adventures, a very young Indy visited Paris. He met Picasso & Braque–and the audience got a lesson in Cubism. Indy befriended a talented American art student named Norman Rockwell, who showed his skill by creating a homage to Picasso. Picasso was amused & signed it. Years later, we see Old Indy admiring “the masterpiece” in a museum…

Picasso was initially among the suspects when the Mona Lisa was stolen. But a Louvre employee was the culprit; the painting was discovered & returned. Or was it? What if the real Mona Lisa had been destroyed or lost? Would French pride have demand that a clever duplicate take its place?

Interesting article, thanks for posting it. It confirms (to my satisfaction) my strong suspicion that Biro is himself a fraud and that the the famous “Pollock” from the documentary isn’t genuine.

Dutch forger Hans van Meghren passed off several fake Vermeers quite successfully. He even fooled the dean of Dutch art experts (Abraham Bredius).
There is also speculation that some of van Gogh’s later works are fakes-these paintings started showing up in the 1920’s-decades after van Gogh’s death.
I also think that, unless modern analysis methods are used, it is impossible to authenticate an unsigned painting-are experts commonly label such paintings “school of Rubens, Titian, etc.”-when they don’t know who painted it. So many paintings attributed to a famous artist may be either fakes or mislabeled. Years ago, I read that the late Willem de Kooning was almost senile the last few years of his life-yest he was still producing paintings-there is a speculation that these are forgeries.

Yeah, that was a very interesting article, and thanks to the OP for posting it.

I’d never heard of Biro before, but I do remember when “La Bella Principessa” was announced as a possible new da Vinci.

This may have been close to what happened. Peruggia supposedly had some partners who convinced him to steal the painting so it could be held for ransom.

But the partners had no real plan to try to ransom the actual painting - that connection would be too likely to lead to their arrest (as it did to Peruggia). Their plan was to simply have the painting stolen. Because, unbeknownst to Peruggia, they had already approached several shady art collectors and offered to sell them the Mona Lisa.

With the real painting stolen and vanished, the partners were now able to sell forgeries to all of the collectors they had previously approached. Peruggia, meanwhile, was holding on to the real painting and waiting in vain for his supposed partners to show up and help with the ransoming. After months of waiting, he realized they weren’t coming back and tried to arrange the ransom deal himself and was caught and arrested.

With the original recovered and accounted for, the collectors who had bought the forgeries now realized they had been conned. But how could they complain?

On the van Gogh front, there’s also been speculation that the reason van Gogh seemed so prolific while staying with Dr. Paul Gachet is that some of the paintings are really Gachet’s copies of van Gogh’s originals.

The Shroud of Turin is almost certainly fake, or at least not what it claims to be.

The composer/violinist Fritz Kreisler claimed to have discovered unknown works of several composers. Years later he finally admitted to composing them himself.

That’s the lede in the first link of the OP.

The shroud itself makes no claims. Rather there are proponents and opponents of it being a genuine religious relic.

Haha, wow, I really didn’t know just how typical Kreisler’s story was!

But I would like to try to make a last-ditch effort to clarify my OP and get the thread on the track I was hoping for.

I guess what I was really asking is if any well-known artists, writers, or composers had a work in their oeuvre that seemed (either subtly or hugely) different from the others, to the extent that you wouldn’t be shocked to hear it was not truly a work of the master.

Decades ago, I bought Randy Newman’s album Land of Dreams because I liked the song “It’s Money That Matters”. It reminded me a lot of the other Randy Newman song I liked, “I Love L.A.”

I hated the whole rest of the album. Rather than sounding like the two songs I liked, all the other songs were more like the songs that would later become so familiar from the Toy Story soundtracks.

So, even though it was the song I liked that got some radio airplay, “It’s Money That Matters” seems like the fake, and it’s the other material that is the real Randy Newman.

Actually, there is some doubt as to whether Bach’s most famous organ piece, the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 (Youtube vid), was actually written by him. It violates several of the normal rules for writing a fugue, and there are no original manuscripts of it. Some people believe it was written by someone else, or that it was a violin piece arranged for the organ by Bach.

Mark Knopfler played guitar on that track. Maybe he had some imput writing the song.

As for Randy Newman, I don’t know if you’re familiar with his earlier stuff but it really is quite different than the Disney songs people know him for now. His songs were a lot darker and more biting when he started out.