British family of forgers fooled art world with fake of Gauguin 'Faun' sculpture

A sculpture thought to be the work of Paul Gauguin, which the Art Institute of Chicago bought a decade ago hailing it as one of its most important acquisitions, has turned out to be a fake made by a British family who were convicted of forgery last month.

The piece, a half-man, half-goat ceramic figure entitled The Faun and crafted in the style of the 19th-century French artist, had been hailed as a major rediscovery by the museum when it was bought. But the sculpture has been revealed to be among scores of forgeries produced by the prolific Greenhalgh family from Greater Manchester, according to The Art Newspaper.

Last month, a judge sentenced Shaun Greenhalgh, 47, to four years and eight months in prison, while his mother, Olive, 82, received a suspended term of 12 months. Her husband, George, 84, is still awaiting sentencing. Shaun Greenhalgh created the fakes, while his parents handled most of the sales. All three pleaded guilty earlier this year to defrauding art institutions and buyers over the past 17 years.

Erin Hogan, the director of public affairs, said the Institute was naturally disappointed by the turn of events.

"We are very disappointed by this but it was a very clever and creative job," she said.

Ms Hogan added that the Institute was in talks with Sotheby's and the dealer about possible compensation for the discredited piece. "Everyone who bought and sold [the work] did so in good faith," she said.

Yesterday, Scotland Yard confirmed that The Faun was sold by Sotheby's under an account for Mrs Roscoe, which is Olive Greenhalgh's maiden name. Investigators had already announced last month that a forged Gauguin ceramic of The Faun had been sold by the Greenhalgh family but that its "current whereabouts are unknown".

On 30 November 1994, Sotheby's sold the piece to private dealers in London for 18,000, and three years later the Institute's chief curator, Douglas Druick, spotted it at the dealers. Although the Institute already had an impressive group of Gauguin paintings and works on paper, it had no sculptures and it was bought for around $125,000.

In 2001, the Institute's sculpture curator, Ian Wardropper, wrote that it was one of the most important acquisitions of the past 20 years and described The Faun's features, as "bound up with the artist's self-image as a 'savage'". In the same year, it was displayed in Chicago's definitive Van Gogh and Gauguin exhibition, which later went on to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Mr Druick dated the work to winter 1886, which made it Gauguin's "first ceramic". In his description, he noted the "potentially phallic tail, but parted legs reveal the absence of the often flaunted sign of a faun's virility, resulting in an aura of impotence. Gauguin evidently linked this iconography to his failing relationship with [his wife] Mette".

In 2005, it was accepted by the leading specialist in Gauguin ceramics, Anne-Birgitte Fonsmark, from Copenhagen, who described it as "among Gauguin's most satirical" works.

The sculpture appeared to be based on a tiny drawing of a faun sculpture in a sketchbook which the artist used in Martinique in 1887. Having been permanently displayed in a gallery of Post-Impressionist art in Chicago, it was taken off show in October.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Female PE Teacher

£23760 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering