Kind of Blue

From somewhere near the intersection of Art & Commerce comes the news item that:

Art historians believe they have found a [clue to the origins of denim] in the work of a newly discovered 17th-century north Italian artist, dubbed the “Master of the Blue Jeans.”  Running through his works like a leitmotif is an indigo blue fabric threaded with white.

"Beggar Boy With Piece of Pie"

The article  –and organizers of a gallery exhibition in Paris–   go on to make the claim that these paintings establish the birthplace of denim in Genoa during the mid-17th century.   Regardless of the merits of this historical claim, Lunghu is skeptical of the entire narrative:   he smells the distinct possibility of art forgery, hoax, and fraud.   Here are the indicator dots that Lunghu is connecting:

  • “There is blue jean in every painting except one,” curator Gerlinde Gruber said.
  • In a further quirk, the blue tint of the fabric was painted with the exact same indigo as that used to dye today’s denim, according to curators.
  • “The works are very attached to the detail of clothing — it was very rare for a painter to characterize the poor with such detail,” Gruber said.
  • In 2004, gallery owner Maurizio Canesso bought a work (“The Barber’s Shop”) in New York by an unknown artist of the Neapolitan school. [He soon] found a copy [of the painting] in a museum in Varese near Milan
  • [ Gruber’s] search [for the artist’s oeuvre] began after two works thought to be by [the painter’s] hand surfaced within a short space of time — the “Woman sewing with two children” and the “Beggar boy with a piece of pie.”
  • The works’ value is estimated at between 60,000 and 800,000 euros according to the Canesso gallery.

Lunghu would love to see some impartial authentication conducted, beginning with close scrutiny of the provenance of the various paintings in question.  Caveat emptor.

Where’s Tony Tetro when you really need him?

Update: Sept 20, 2010

In light of the startling popularity of this post, Lunghu wishes to make it clear that he considers persons named above to be likely victims –not perpetrators–   of any art forgery hoax that may exist.


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