Art on-line auction: aging and authenticity are (not) absolutely guaranteed

Dominique Weitz was holding a gallery located at 6, rue de la Grange-Batelière in Paris (IX) .

Earlier this month (april 2013), investigators from the Central Office for the Fight against Traffic in Cultural Goods (OCBC) have arrested the boss, Dominique Weitz, and investigated his stock in Maisons-Alfort, Val-de-Marne .

On April 5, he was indicted for forgery, deception and fraud by a French financial judge and released on bail of 80,000 euros.

The deception was discovered by a fan of the “Ecouen school of painting”. This cosmopolitan group of nineteenth century landscape painters animated by a student of Delaroche (a well-known painter in these times): Pierre Edouard Frère. This amateur tried to bid on a anonymous painting in Drouot’s auctions center, without success. On eBay, he was surprised to rediscover the same canvas signed Edouard Frère, at a significantly higher price, sold by a professional named Dominique Weitz, who proposed many paintings of this period.

Alerted, the OCBC responded quickly to Weitz’s shop where it seized three other paintings with a forged signature. The antique dealer confessed he bought works at Drouot, to which he added a signature, then he sold them, still on eBay.

Weitz dealed canvas from small masters. He was careful to stay below the “radar” . However, it would have placed around 1500 lots on Ebay auctions. Amongst them, a marine bearing the signature of Ulysses Buttin, a series of drawings awkwardly signed “Anquetin”, a sanguine attributed to Emile Wattier (for 2780 euros), an Orientalist painting by Claude Marks and many prints and old photographs.

Historical comments Weitz wrote about the paintings are flattering: this  lithograph of a caricature by Poulbot, bearing a signature in blue pencil, is displayed “from the family of the artist. This photographic portrait of banker Pereire by Nadar is described as coming from “the Orleans family.” And we do not know very well what would be accurate in the description of a drawing of the Provençal house painter Felix Ziem signed Honoré Viguier. The works for sale included “clichetons” of the petty bourgeois taste.

A “delightful painting” of “young woman scantily dressed with lace”, supposedly due to Lyon Pierre-François Bouchard, a friend of Flandrin, “is presented as genuine and old and authentic.”

A “nice painting” depicting a musketeer, announced as produced by Gustave Barrier is “presumed” as “a portrait of d’Artagnan.”

Weitz mentionned on the auction site: “aging and authenticity are absolutely guaranteed” .

All is not necessarily a fake, of course.

A painstaking jog by OCBC specialists will help to determine the proportions of faking and to find the victims.

Dominique Weitz, who has since been suspended from the auction practice, could have continue his small business much longer. The prices of the paintings he proposed were not excessive and the suspect remained below a threshold above which it would quickly suspicious.



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