The Art Newspaper is reporting that a carving of a horned devil bought as an original Gauguin by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is not genuine.
They say that the carving, Head with Horns, which fetched a record price for a Gauguin sculpture, has just been downgraded and relegated to the storeroom. While the Getty doesn’t divulge the prices they pay for acquisitions, it’s estimated that they paid $3 to 5 Million for the piece when they acquired it in 2002.
According to The Art Newspaper, “Anne-Lise Desmas, the Getty’s head of sculpture and decorative arts, is now writing the catalogue of the museum’s French works. Joining the Getty in 2008, she looked at Head with Horns with fresh eyes, becoming increasingly doubtful about the attribution. She points out that “no other Gauguin sculpture has such a pedestal” and unusually for an important Gauguin sculpture, it is unsigned.
“Another significant piece of evidence against the attribution, tracked down by Fourmanoir, is a Jules Agostini photographic album acquired in 2015 by the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. It includes a photograph of the sculpture, captioned Idole Marquisienne—so Agostini presumably believed that it was made by an indigenous carver from the Marquesas, part of French Polynesia.
“A close examination of the album suggests that the photograph of Head with Horns was taken between November and December 1894, a time when Gauguin was in Paris (before his return to Tahiti in September 1895, after which he had been thought to have carved the work). Adjacent to Head with Horns in Agostini’s album is a portrait of George Lagarde, a collector of ethnographic material‚ so he could have been the owner of the photographed sculpture.”
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