For one day only: a pounds 250,000 painting for pounds 400

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The Independent Online
Want to buy a Canaletto, Holbein or Van Gogh but think you cannot quite afford them? The solution is at hand. Next month Bonhams is hosting an auction in London of paintings from the studio of the faker Miguel Canals, with works from Old Masters to French Impressionists.

Treats include a copy of Gustave Caillebotte's A Parisian Street Scene (above, up to pounds 250,000 if the original was sold at auction, up to pounds 400 in the Bonhams sale.) Degas's The Dancer's Studio (up to pounds 1m on the open market; up to pounds 500 at Bonhams); Manet's On the Beach (up to pounds 400); Edvard Munch's A Portrait of Four Children (up to pounds 350).

In perhaps the nicest twist, someone can pick up a copy of a portrait sold in the original by Sotheby's last Wednesday for a fraction of the price. It was A Portrait of Three Young Girls, from the circle of Robert Peake. The delightful painting went for pounds 254,500 at Sotheby's; the Bonhams copy is estimated at pounds 600 to pounds 800.

The paintings go far more cheaply than if bought directly from the Barcelona- based Canals studio, set up by Canals in the 1970s after he had mixed with Picasso and Joan Miro at his father's canvas factory.

Canals died last year but his contribution in founding one of the first studios to produce high-quality fakes is continued by his family, who run a studio staffed by 14 fakers, each with a specialist period or painter.

All their copies carry the signature of the original painter they are faking - if the work was signed by the artist in the first place - which is legal once they are out of copyright.

Despite the fact that paintings from the Canals studio would fool almost no one in the art world, they are often bought by the seriously rich to use in second homes as decoration without the need for insurance. Pippa Stockdale, the specialist in charge of the sale on 3 December, reports that they will often buy them for just a few months and then swap them with others following a change of mood or colour scheme.

With such a choice, the sale could offer a perfect Christmas present. But it is a long auction and the bidding goes slowly. Anyone after the Toulouse Lautrec The Dancer (up to pounds 600) will be in for a long wait.

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