Monday, July 17, 2006


BlogBack: Thomas Hoving on the Met's Duccio

Right again, art-lings. The answer to yesterday's question is: C) Tom Hoving, author of "False Impressions, the Hunt for Big Time Art Fakes."

Better known as Philippe de Montebello's predecessor as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hoving dukes it out over Duccio in this CultureGrrl BlogBack:
James Beck has apparently not followed the standard methodology of determining a fake in the case of the Duccio at the Met.

For one thing, he doesn't take into consideration that the piece is a private devotional image, a non-"maniera-Greca" icon. So, it is not strictly correct to compare it with larger works by Duccio and his contemporaries. There is nothing with which to compare it.

For another, Beck does not put himself in the mind of his "forger." In the 19th century, Gothic items were invariably prettified. I have seen a dozen or so that are invariably more sinuous and soignée than anything made in the early 14th century.

The Met Duccio is too unpretty to be a 19th century fake. Beck's argument that the anatomy of the Christ is rather ugly is in fact a good argument for its being ca. 1300.

Similarly, the parapet or pedestal (or whichever it is) is exceedingly rare in Gothic art. Forgers virtually never add anything to their fakes that is rare and thus
risky. The foundation of fakery is to be safe.

Thus Beck's argument here, as with the one mentioned above, tends to substantiate the piece as authentic.

CultureGrrl says, let the debate continue. What we really DO need is a Duccio dossier exhibition, organized by the Met, to allow the experts to convene, compare and contrast key examples from the artist's early oeuvre.

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