Which is Fake?
One of these drawings is "The Portrait of Henri Leroy"
by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot,
in the collection of the
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
The other is a copy of same,
done by the notorious forger,
whose story has been recently told
by philosopher Denis Dutton
in his popular book, "The Art Instinct"
How can one tell the difference?
As Hebborn writes in his own book, "Drawn to Trouble",
"seek the hesitant line of the copyist,
as opposed to the strong, sure line of Corot"
The drawing in the Fogg collection
may be found reproduced in the book,
"Modern Prints and Drawings" by Paul J. Sachs.
Beneath which, Sachs has written:
"I illustrate his genius in black and white not by one of his romantic etched landscapes, but by this serious, moving pencil portrait, a drawing in which there is a complete absence of any calligraphic trick; a drawing which renders a mood miraculously... To appreciate this drawing there is no need to consult x-ray or any other modern scientific aids often used to bolster insensitive vision. However, with ultra-violet light... one can read an inscription on the reverse of the blue mount which enframes the drawing. The sentence not only identifies the little sitter but expresses the wish that the drawing remain in the family, never to be sold"
So, which one is fake?
Hebborn shows them side-by-side
in his book,
and eventually identifies
the top one as the original,
as you notice
"how poor my version is, how faulty the construction, how harsh the modeling, and all sorts of ghastly errors which escaped your notice before"
he also suggests that
you locate a copy of the Sachs book,
just to make sure.
Which I did.
(it's in the River Forest Library)
and lo and behold,
but the second drawing
is the one in the Fogg.
It's the first drawing,
the stronger one,
which is the fake.
that doesn't mean
that the other one is not a fake as well.
I would suspect that the owners of the original
kept their word about never selling it,
and sold a copy of it instead.
And when you look again at the first,
after looking at the rest of Hebborn's work,
you can see
how it expresses his rather vigorous
just like many of his other drawings.
(which I will show in the next post)
(note: another comparison of Fake/not-Fake
is shown here
regarding a "Piranesi" that has proven quite embarrassing
for a Danish art museum. But here, you may notice
that the Fake feels looser, less angular, and more whimsical than the original)