The Zeri Foundation photographic archive contains some 3,200 photographs reproducing 2,000 painting and sculptural fakes. This complex and fascinating subject is closely linked to the realm of connoisseurship.

Most of these materials belong to the photo archive of Federico Zeri (2,192 photos) and a smaller part to collections donated by art historians Everett Fahy (768) and Luisa Vertova (107) as well as the antiquarian Luigi Albrighi (172).

Federico Zeri ‘s career-long interest in fakes emerges from various outstanding scientific publications (one example may serve: Il Falsario in calcinaccio, 1971) and some memorable revelations made during radio and television interviews (such as The Modigliani fakesThe Ludovisi throne; The fake Kuros at the Getty Museum).
The same interest transpires from the extraordinary Fakes section in the Photo Archive: 2,192 images catalogued and now available on the online database, thanks to a contribution from the Friends of Federico Zeri Association.

The photographs come from private collections and the market, or from archives of historic antiquarian galleries like Sangiorgi or Luigi Grassi, and those of famous art historians, including Evelyn Sandberg Vavalà and Umberto Gnoli, which Zeri acquired in the course of building up his own photo archive.

In addition to the Zeri fakes documentation there is a rich contribution from other collections.

One such is the Fakes section collected by Everett Fahy (1941-2018), one of the greatest scholars of fifteenth-century painting. The focus here is on derivation and falsification found in Tuscan Renaissance painting.
The photos are arranged by type and by forger. They perfectly complement Zeri’s material in that they document how non-original works circulated on the American market. They mainly show past paintings from auction houses, private collections and museums, even at quite recent dates down to the second decade of our present century.

The hundred or so photographs assembled by art historianLuisa Vertova (1920-1921) during her work as a Christie’s consultant in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties refer to other specific cases, each accompanied by a full apparatus of letters, expertises, articles and newspapers from her own professional archive.

The last Fakes section belongs to antiquarian Luigi Albrighi (1896-1979)’s collection. It is the fruit of the same labour of connoisseurship, in this case by the art historian Luciano Bellosi in 2010. Bellosi weeded out the works he deemed non-original from the rest of the documentation.

The case offers not only the viewpoint of another scholar, but the interest itself of the photos being in that archive: it might suggest that the works passed through Albrighi’s own hands, or that he was involved in commercializing them.

It was decided to catalogue these sub-collections simultaneously, aadopting a transversal and  thematic approach  so as to give appropriate focus to these somewhat sui generis art objects, and also to the tie-ups suggested by photos coming from different collections, and each telling their own different story.

The object is to make available online all the images of fakes possessed by the Foundation. This project will pave the way for new research on collecting and art commerce; it will make it possible to compare different critical approaches, to work back to how the photos have been classified, trace the history of the archives where they were kept, and lastly explore the question of relations between scholars and the market.

See all fake work files available in the online catalogue at this link