Thursday, September 15, 2016

Posthumous plaster reproductions and bronze forgeries falsely and ridiculously attributed to a dead Edgar Degas

NOTE: Footnotes enclosed as: [FN ]
Photo: Joseph P. Coscia Jr./Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

All 75 plasters found at the Valsuani foundry, falsely attributed to Edgar Degas [d 1917], are at best non-disclosed posthumous plaster reproductions by hands, fingers and fingerprints of someone other than a dead Degas.

FIRST, the hands, fingers and fingerprints of others is addressed in "Degas The Sculptor" monograph by exhibition curator Walter Maibaum. On page 6 of his monograph, the exhibition curator Walter Maibaum wrote: "Most likely the plasters were made by Paul-Albert Bartholome (1848-1928), the artist's close friend and colleague who was also a sculptor."[FN 1]

If true, Paul-Albert Bartholome hands, fingers and fingerprints would be all over these non-disclosed posthumous plaster reproductions.

SECOND, the exhibition curator Walter Maibaum further speculated: "Bartholome could have gone into the artist's studio in early 1918 after the waxes were photographed and decided to make the plasters for two reasons: (1), they would provide a record of what the waxes looked like upon the artist's death (and before the waxes deteriorated); and (2), since the heirs were interested in casting bronzes, he made masters thinking they would be used as masters to cast the editions."[FN 2]

Yet, in the National Gallery of Art's published 2010 Edgar Degas Sculpture catalogue Walter Maibaum's speculation is contradicted by Suzanne Glover Lindsay's "Degas' Sculpture After His Death" monograph. On page 15, Suzanne Glover Lindsay wrote: "Degas' artist friend Paul-Albert Bartholome, claimed [critic Paul] Gsell, 'exhumed' and 'restored' the fragile works that the artist himself had left 'abandoned,' not only by having them cast in bronze but by storing the originals in the cellar of the founder charged with executing the bronzes, A.A. Hebrard, to protect them from the bombs that rocked Paris in the last year of World War 1."[FN 3]

Those Edgar Degas "fragile works that the artist himself had left abandoned"[FN 4] were actually mixed-media sculpture that critic Paul Gsell says in 1918 were posthumously "exhumed" and "restored" by Paul-Albert Bartholome. This is confirmed in the National Gallery of Art’s published 2010 Edgar Degas Sculpture catalogue by Daphne S. Barbour and Shelley G. Sturman. On page 35, the authors wrote: “As a material readily available, corks are found inside Degas’ sculpture thoughout his oeuvre, from his earliest to his latest works. In addition to cork, matches, paintbrushes, and rope are also found; perhaps, for the sake of economy and convenience, Degas used what was near at hand.”[FN 5]

So, once again, according to critic Paul Gsell in 1918, Paul-Albert Bartholome "exhumed" and "restored" Edgar Degas' "fragile works" a.k.a. mixed-media sculptures.

THIRD, Walter Maibaum's speculation that Paul-Albert Bartholome was responsible for making the plasters is further muddled when on page 6 of his monograph, he wrote: "Upon first seeing the waxes and realizing their fragility, Hebrard's master caster, Albino Palazzolo (1883-1973), could have decided to make the plasters for the same reasons as Bartholome would have done."[FN 6]

After Edgar Degas death in 1917, Hebrard foundry was contracted by Edgar Degas' heirs to cast Edgar Degas' mixed-media sculptures in brass [not bronze]. Hebrard foundry's Albino Palazzolo (1883-1973) was the one in charge of the serial production of them. So, does Walter Maibaum's speculation that Paul-Albert Bartholome or Albino Palazzolo "could have" made the plasters confirm that either one of them did?

FOURTH, on page 32 in Joseph Czestochoewki's published 2002 Degas Sculptures and the "Degas and His Castings" monograph by Ann Pingeot, the former curator at the department of sculpture at the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay quoted historian Jean Adhemar stating: "I asked M. Palazzolo if he would be able to recognize a false Degas bronze. Smiling, he said that he could, because he knew where to find his own fingerprints on the originals."[FN 7]

Therefore, whether it was Paul-Albert Bartholome, Albino Palazzolo, and/or someone else including but not limited to someone from the Valsuani foundry that were responsible for making the plasters, those who made them would be chromists. A chromist is someone who copies with their hands, fingers and fingerprints the work of another resulting, at best, in reproductions.

Under U.S. Copyright Law 101. Definitions, a derivative work is defined as: “a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as art reproduction.”[FN 8] Additionally, under U.S. Copyright 106A, it states the “Rights of Attribution - shall not apply to any reproduction.”[FN 9]

In other words, under U.S. Copyright Law, reproductions are derivatives which cannot be -attributed- to a living artist, much less a dead one.

DETAIL from Photo: Joseph P. Coscia Jr./Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

DETAIL from Photo: Joseph P. Coscia Jr./Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

FIFTH, as if that was not enough, non-disclosed posthumous counterfeit "Degas" signatures were inscribed on these non-disclosed posthumous 2nd-generation-removed bronzes to deceptively foster the illusion that Edgar Degas [d 1917] signed them, much less created and approve them.

Edgar Degas never signed his lifetime mixed-media sculptures.

This is confirmed on page 32-33 in Charles W. Milliard’s 1976 The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, where the author wrote: “Each cast is stamped with the legend 'cire perdue A.A. Hebrard' in relief, and incised with the signature ‘Degas.’” Later on page 34, the author wrote: “At least some of the casts were set on wooden bases into which the signature “Degas” was burned.”[FN 10]

On page 1387 in the Seventh Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, the term -signature- is defined as: “A person’s name or mark written by that person or at the person’s direction.”[FN 11]

Since, all Hebrard foundry casts in brass [not bronze] of Edgar Degas' mixed-media sculptures are posthumous, a signature attributed to dead Edgar Degas could not have been "written by that person or at the person's direction."

Notice in the above photograph of the wooden base for the late 20th-century - early 21st-century Valsuani foundry cast of a so-called Little Dancer Aged Fourteen attributed to Edgar Degas, has an inscribed "Degas" signature on the wooden base.

Edgar Degas died in 1917, the early 20th-century. The dead don't sign.

On page 661 of the Seventh Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, -forgery- is defined as: "The act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine."[FN 12]

Rhetorically, would posthumous inscribed counterfeit "Degas" signatures to posthumous bronze casts reproduced from posthumous plasters be: "the act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine?"

SIXTH, in "Degas The Sculptor" monograph, exhibition curator Walter Maibaum wrote: "The art historian, Dr. Gregory Hedberg, Director of European Art for New York's Hirschl & Adler Galleries, found strong evidence leading to his conclusion the Little Dancer plaster was made between 1887 and 1903. Dr. Hedberg also proposed that with the exception of numbers 3(b) and 59, it is possible that Bartholome could have made all the plasters during Degas' lifetime for (Bartholome's) personal collection. If so, the plasters would have been made over a period of years, from 1887 to 1912. Under this proposal the plasters most likely would have remained in the Bartholome family's collection until 1955 when they were brought to Valsuani."[FN 13]

Then in Dr. Gregory Hedberg's "Degas' The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, The Unknown First Version" monograph for an exhibition, he wrote: "All of the other Degas bronzes in this exhibition were also cast by Valsuani foundry from plasters that were made by Bartholome for his own collection while Degas was still alive.[FN 14]

So, whether the plasters were made by Paul-Albert Bartholome and/or someone else before or after Edgar Degas' death in 1917, at best they would be chromist-made reproductions that could not be attributable to Edgar Degas because he did not create them and not attributable to Paul-Albert Bartholome and/or someone else because it was not their work.

SEVENTH, what may be the motivation for the nonsense of attributing chromist-made plaster reproductions done by the hands, fingers and fingerprints of someone other than Edgar Degas and falsely attributing to Degas the subsequent non-disclosed posthumous 2nd-generation-removed bronze forgeries with posthumously inscribed counterfeit "Degas" signature?

This is potentially addressed in an ArtNews published August 15, 2011 "Adding to the Confusion" article by William D. Cohen. In part, the author wrote: "In June 2006, at the request of Maibaum, [New York art dealer Stewart] Waltzer appraised a set of the 73 bronzes at just above $19 million, and another appraiser, Alex Rosenberg, valued the set at $20.5 million. In 2009, Waltzer appraised the Valsuani version of Little Dancer at $12 million, also at Maibaum’s request."[FN 15]

EIGHTH in this same published article, the William D. Cohen wrote: “This appraisal is accompanied by various letters and [a]ttestations from Leonardo Benatov, owner of the Valsuani foundry, stating explicitly that the plasters, which serve as the basis for the 74 Edgar Degas bronze sculptures from the 1998 Valsuani Edition marked ‘Set VII/XI,’ are authentic,” Waltzer wrote in his 2010 appraisal. “Therefore, these works have been appraised as authentic works by Edgar Degas. This appraiser and this appraisal [do] not warrant the authenticity of the 74 Edgar Degas bronze sculptures from the 1998 Valsuani Edition marked ‘Set VII/IX.'”[FN 16]

Rhetorically, how can anything be considered "authentic works by Edgar Degas" if they were made in 1998 some 81 years after Edgar Degas died in 1917?

Finally, on page 670 of the Seventh Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, -fraud- is defined as: “a knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment.”[FN 17]

In closing, to learn more about one of the largest art frauds in the 20th/21st-century, link to:


Caveat Emptor!

2. Ibid
3. National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogues, Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 2, 2011), ISBN-10: 069114897X, ISBN-13: 978-0691148977
4. Ibid
5. Ibid
7. Publisher: The Torch Press (2002), ISBN-10: 0971640807, ISBN-13: 978-0971640801
10. Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 21, 1980), ISBN-10: 0691003181, ISBN-13: 978-0691003184
11. Publisher: West Group, ASIN: B00HMVMPKI
12. Ibid
16. Ibid
17. Publisher: West Group, ASIN: B00HMVMPKI

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