Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Art and Art History

First Advisor

Louise Arizzoli

Relational Format



Fakes and forgeries generate a false sense of value in the art market that changes the perception of authentic works. Understanding the difference between a fake and a forgery is essential for explaining the schemes of deceivers who have fooled the art market into believing their work is of grandiose value and prestige. The creation of a forged piece or fake provenance documents requires immense artistic skill and a talent for breaking the rules. Examining famous figures and the criminal cases against them is a great way to work backwards from their “successes,” tracing the alleged origins of the piece’s ownership and creation. What makes these pieces so successful is their perceived value. Before examining cases of forgery, we must first understand what they are and why we perceive them the way we do. To simplify the definition of a painting down to “some paint on a canvas” is deeply rooted in our perception of art’s value. What makes these materials so valuable is the person who puts them together in a unique way. The lens of rarity and expertise is what makes forgery possible, if art’s value were not as great as it is, forgers would not take the risk of criminal conviction when mimicking those with the greatest value. This value is generated by art’s uniqueness and individuality. Forgery’s attempt to replicate original works or create a false sense of originality is the root of its controversy. The cases of John Drewe and John Myatt, Wolfgang Beltracchi, and Ely Sakhai each present different approaches to the methods of art forgery and challenge our perceptions of art authenticity and its effect on art value.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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