One of the works included in the Courtauld’s exhibition is a certified fake Dirk van Baburen-style painting called “The Procuress” (c. 1930) by famous art forger Han van Meegeren. (all images of artworks courtesy Courtauld Gallery; edit above Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

The phrase “fake it till you make it” has come full circle as the Courtauld Gallery in London gears up for a special exhibition dedicated to the forged artworks in its collection. On view from June 17 to October 8, Art and Artifice: Fakes from the Collection will include over 30 artworks formerly misattributed to artistic masters including Sandro Botticelli and Auguste Rodin in a public display for the first time.

Around 25 drawings and seven paintings are included in the exhibition catalogue alongside some sculptures and decorative works. A number of known forged artworks were donated to the Courtauld Institute of Art for students from the art history and art conservation departments to study, while others that were donated to the Courtauld collection were revealed to be fakes only after close examination and provenance analysis.

Forgery in the manner of John Constable (1776–1837), “Seascape” (1840s), watercolor

The exhibition will display an 1840s watercolor seascape painting in the style of John Constable donated to the collection by the artist’s daughter, Isabel, that was likely painted by one of the artist’s sons years after his death in 1837. Additionally, a “Virgin and Child” (c. 1920s) forgery painted by art conservator and “forger extraordinaire” Umberto Giunti in the style of Sandro Botticelli was thought to be an original by the Renaissance master until a closer look detected modern pigments in use and pinpointed a 1920s film star as the inspiration of Mother Mary’s appearance.

The Courtauld will proudly showcase works by notorious forgers such as Han van Meegeren, a known Vermeer-copyist who went on trial for selling paintings imitating the style of the Dutch master to the Nazi elite during World War II. Having turned to forgery after stunted success with his own artistic career, van Meegeren was able to solidify his claims of Vermeer originals by mixing oil paints with Bakelite, an early form of plastic, to simulate the texture and consistency of centuries-old dried oil paint on a surface that evaded detection during earlier material analyses.

A drawing by British expert forger Eric Hebborn, who stumped galleries and institutions across the world with what he claimed was over 1,000 falsified artworks, will also be included.

Art and Artifice: Fakes from the Collection will be accessible with a standard admission ticket at the Courtauld’s Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery.

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...