CHICAGO.-The Art Institute of Chicago has recently concluded that The Faun, a sculpture acquired by the museum in 1997 as a work by Paul Gauguin, is a creative, well researched forgery of a lost work by the artist produced by the recently sentenced Greenhalgh family from Bolton, England.
The Faun was purchased by the museum from a private dealer who had purchased the work at auction at Sothebys in 1994. The documentation related to the works chain of ownership, or provenance, was accepted by both Sothebys and the private dealer.
That documentation is now believed to be counterfeit. Sothebys additionally asserted that the work was to be included in the Gauguin catalogue raisonné prepared by the Wildenstein Institute. The Art Institute is in discussion with both Sothebys and the dealer about being recompensed for the object.
Doubts about the works authenticity first came to light as part of a Scotland Yard investigation of the Greenhalgh family, who pled guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud art institutions and financial improprieties with the proceeds. The family includes Shaun Greenhalgh, who made the objects, and his parents, George and Olive, who sold the objects. In the course of the investigation, Shaun Greenhalgh confirmed that The Faun was one of the works he forged. The Faun was one of hundreds of objects under investigation but was never a principal focus of the investigation.
The Greenhalghs came to the attention of Scotland Yard 20 months ago after attempting to sell the British Museum Assyrian reliefs with historical inaccuracies. The main focus of the investigation, however, was a work known as the Amarna Princess, a statuette depicting the mother of King Tutankhamun, which was purchased by the Bolton Museum in 2003. That statue was authenticated by the British Museum and widely praised as an important Egyptian discovery.
Greenhalgh objects have been sold through private dealers as well as the auction houses Sothebys, Christies, and Bonhams.