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Pictology: good vs fake

Pictologie: goede en valse kunst herkennen - Lyklema Fine Art

Maurits Michiel van Dantzig (Rotterdam 1903 - Amsterdam 1960) was a Dutch art theorist, restorer and painter. However, most people in the arts know him for his theory about good versus false paintings: pictology. At exhibitions he was amazed by the subjectivity of reviewers. To objectify it, he wrote the book Painting, crafting, falsification. In 1938 Van Dantzig concluded that only 33 works at the Haarlem Hals exhibition could be attributed with certainty to Frans Hals. During his investigation into forgeries, he also discovered that the painting 'The Supper at Emmaus' by Johannes Vermeer, purchased by Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, was a forgery by Han van Meegeren, the master forger.

He developed a questionnaire to assess the authenticity of paintings. The criteria he used are very useful for assessing a painting and provide surprising insights and discussion material about a painting.

Assessing the quality of paintings
The most important question to assess the quality is whether the work is painted with feeling and whether it is one composition. The work must be inspired. Do the people depicted have character and mutual contact? Have all parts of the composition been done with care and is there coherence in depth and proportions? The work must have visibly arisen in one process in which the artist has had control over the situation in every part. It is based on life and not on a previously created work of art. Forgeries are often well thought out and consist of parts and mannerisms and start from a painting to copy it. In a good painting there is balance between the contrasts:

Rest - Movement
Light dark
Big small
Color - colorless
Coarse - fine
Fragmentary - whole

Naturally, when assessing, we, like Van Dantzig, also look at the characteristics of a painting and the materials (canvas, stretcher frame, staples/nails, paint). Are the materials used up to date, is the signature genuine (is it in the right place, for example under the varnish), is it in the style of the artist, is it an original work, do we know the history/origin and can we make a provide a guarantee on these points. If not, we don't buy it and therefore don't offer it here. Paintings are unique works of art and therefore cannot be bought for a few pennies. Be careful in the art trade, about 20% is fake. A trained eye can often pick them out. Beginners in the art market learn by trial and error.

Zoetelief Tromp
In the book Buying art yourself by Ard Huiberts and Sander Kooistra, they have placed several examples next to each other that are illuminating. Here is a work by Zoetelief Tromp and a copy below as an illustration. If you are looking for a Netflix documentary about (contemporary) forgeries and the biggest scams in the art market, Made You Look is highly recommended.
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