The Italian in its title (inganno means “deception”) ought to give away the fact that this book is really not intended for HNA members, despite its otherwise neutral designated subject of “early modern art.” Because its nine case studies deal with the subject of both copies and forgeries, it will certainly still elicit interest, not least for its implications, rarely spelled out, for the famous names and reputations of individual artists in this formative epoch of what Joseph Alsop called the “rare art tradition” of Renaissance Europe. That moment generated efficient production and growth of the business of art, which extend in this volume from Italian sixteenth-century workshops to salons and galleries of eighteenth-century London. And these several essays consider the fluid boundary between copying – whether for artistic training after renowned models or for translation into another medium – and outright forgery. At the heart of many studies lies the question of reception through imitation and transformation.
Editor Sharon Gregory considers homage to Dürer woodcuts by Pontormo, a form of adaptation that Vasari criticized for betrayal of the painter’s personal style; she demonstrates that Pontormo actually melded various print sources from both Germany and Italy, but within the modern cult of individuality and originality, such borrowings previously would have been viewed as shortcomings. Allison Sherman offers a case where Tintoretto suppresses his personal style to imitate, or better to emulate, Veronese in order to please his patrons. Here competition amidst imitation points to the artist’s business strategy in mid-sixteenth-century Venice.
The shift of imagery from iconic reference to assertion of artistic vision and personal style (cf. Hans Belting and Christopher Wood) generated a tension between reception of venerated visual tradition and artistic transformation. Ancient models became sources of emulation, especially for Michelangelo, whose forgery of an ancient Sleeping Cupid by Praxiteles (1496) is the subject of editor Sally Anne Hickson’s study. Here successful deception became a badge of originality and virtuoso contemporary authenticity. Of course, deceptive copies of prints are well known to HNA members, not only the infamous engravings in Venice by Marcantonio Raimondi after Dürer woodcuts, but also virtuoso reworkings, such as the Wierix engravings after Dürer prototypes, often in the original orientation and even with the same detail executed in miniature. Yet copying and distribution of certain celebrated prototypes, especially the chalk drawings by Michelangelo for both Vittoria Colonna and Tomasso Cavaliere, held special value for the collectors and friendship circles who were proud possessors of those derivative works, some of them in luxury media, as Maria Ruvoldt has demonstrated. Not to mention the burgeoning period interest in engraved reproductions of works in other media by professional printmakers, a topic to which I personally devoted an exhibition two decades ago (Larry Silver and Timothy Riggs, Graven Images, 1993; to be supplemented by various later studies, such as Rebecca Zorach and Elizabeth Rodini, Paper Museums, 2005). As usual when the artworks are chiefly Italian, prints are ignored, despite the importance of Cornelis Cort and the Carracci in this tradition.
With the turn of the seventeenth century, replication as appropriation became increasingly suspicious, as analyzed in Elizabeth Cropper’s study of Domenichino’s composition after Agostino Carracci, under attack by Giovanni Lanfranco (The Domenichino Affair, 2005). Here copying comes close to a modern notion of copyright violation, yet again the inattention to prints and the developing concept of “privilege” within a given territory or rulership would have strengthened the Italo-centrism of this volume. Yet no one better epitomizes than Rubens the importance of copying both as an homage and as a form of insertion of the later painter into the grand tradition of his illustrious predecessor; his copies after Titian are exemplary, but his varying uses of copying are well elaborated in the latest Corpus Rubenianum volumes by Jeremy Wood and Kristin Belkin – ample testimonial to Rubens’s vast contributions to this living tradition.
The real payoff for HNA members in this volume comes from a stimulating essay – the promising harbinger of her full-length Ashgate study, just released – by Andrea Bubenik about the “Dürer Renaissance.” This phenomenon, already well studied for animal and plant studies by Fritz Koreny (1988), chiefly occurred in the Prague of Rudolf II but all over northern Europe, where Dürer held the canonical status usually accorded to Raphael (Cathleen Hoeniger’s essay). Here Bubenik focuses on the Feast of the Rose Garlands and on the critical importance of collecting, especially at courts, in stimulating this phenomenon of copying (particularly back at the original site whence a religious image was expropriated, e.g. the Rose Garlands from Venice or the All Saints from Nuremberg). She also nicely distinguishes between imitation (more or less exact copy), emulation (a competitive imitation that often transforms the original), and outright forgery, intended to deceive, usually for financial gain. All of these strategies are generated by the heated demand conditions of the emerging rare art tradition – where collecting also prompts forging of famous works.
The volume concludes with essays chiefly about fraud within the art market. Sally Anne Hickson examines a dialogue, L’Inganno, by humanist Giuseppe Orologi (Venice, 1562) about forgery in art; one of the speakers is theorist Lodovico Dolce. Hickson focuses there and in a separate essay on forgeries in the heated Italian antiquities market – yet another example of Alsop’s rare art culture abetted by collectors. Lynn Catterson’s essay returns to an earlier era of the first Italian prose about art, Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Commentari, which already indicates the prevalence of fraud in antiquities. Finally, Kristin Campbell discusses fraud in the late eighteenth-century London art market, specifically dealer Noel Desenfans and his exploitation of purported expertise to deceive clients.
In sum, this relatively slim volume raises important questions – already broached by Joseph Alsop – but suffers from myopia of geography (Italy, with little excursions to Prague and London) and media (chiefly sculpture with some painting) – at the cost of wider usefulness, which would have necessitated attention to prints and decorative arts as well as to other regions, artists, and centuries. HNA members, however, can look forward to inspecting the larger study by Bubenik on the many poshumous uses made of Dürer’s art up to 1700.
University of Pennsylvania