Some forgers have become folk heroes; as their infamy rises, so does the value of their work. Works purported to be painted by Elmyr de Hory have found their way onto the market, selling for as much as $30,000. But in the case of this painting, the attribution to de Hory has been questioned. Is this a genuine de Hory in the style of Renoir, or is it the ultimate irony: a fake forgery?
In recent years, some collectors have valued the work of forgers like Elmyr de Hory. This painting, clearly signed on the back, was purchased at auction by a collector of de Hory’s work who lives in Ibiza, Spain, where de Hory resided for many years. As de Hory himself once asked, “Who would prefer a bad original to a good fake?”
Jeune Fille, in the style of Pierre Auguste Renoir
Purported to be by Elmyr de Hory
Courtesy of José Luis Branger
De Hory painted in the style of famous artists such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He never copied from an original painting; instead he created original compositions in the style of great masters. In this case, the subject was copied directly from an original Renoir called Jeune Filles au Piano (Young Girls at the Piano), which is in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. It is clear upon seeing the work that the odd angle of the girl’s head is due to the fact that she is reading sheet music placed above her gaze on a piano.
X-ray fluorescence (XRF) of this painting indicated the presence of titanium to suggest the use of titanium dioxide pigment. We know for certain that this work was not executed by Renoir himself because of the presence of that pigment alone. White paint containing titanium was readily available during de Hory’s lifetime, but he chose not the use it; no titanium dioxide was found on his palette.
This XRF spectra identifies the presence of titanium, most likely present as titanium dioxide, a white pigment not in use until the 20th century. Although available during Elmyr de Hory’s lifetime, this modern pigment has not been identified on any of his known forgeries.
Scientific Research & Analysis Laboratory, Winterthur Museum
De Hory’s fakes were masterful and have deceived many experts. He typically signed his works in the name of the artist he was mimicking. After he was outed as a forger, he proudly signed his own name on the front of his paintings. But on this painting he only signed on the back. Could this have been at the request of a client?
All of the materials present in this painting were available during de Hory’s lifetime. While the modern white pigment titanium dioxide is not present on his palette, the paints there represent only one moment in time and not the materials he may have used at other points in his infamous career.
Elmyr de Hory is not known to have copied directly from original works of art. Jeune Filles au Piano (Young Girls at the Piano), a genuine Renoir painting in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, may be the design source for Jeune Fille. Compare the genuine Renoir to the painting of a young girl that is purported to have been painted by de Hory. What do you think? Did de Hory paint Jeune Fille?
What is your verdict? Genuine or fake?
Corona, Madeline. “Paint with Intent to Deceive: Technical Study of a Palette Belonging to the Art Forger Elmyr de Hory.” ARTC 666: Independent Study, May 24, 2016 (unpublished student report, Winterthur).
Forgy, Mark. The Forger’s Apprentice: Life with the World’s Most Notorious Artist. New York: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.
Forgy, Mark. http://www.elmyr.net/fake-elmyrs.html