Home Magazine The history of the false Paul Gauguin...

The French newspaper Le Figaro has recently announced that "Head with Horns" - the sculpture attributed to Paul Gauguin and purchased in 2002 by the Getty Museum (Los Angeles) - is a fake! We are speaking about a work acquired by the Californian museum for an amount between 3/5 million dollars, at New York gallery Wildenstein & Company. Even stranger is the current lawsuit that sees the powerful Franco-American art dealers already involved in another incorrect attribution of a Pierre Bonnard's painting.

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The latest news date back to December 2019, when the museum had to change the attribution into "unknown". A decision that was based on long and silent academic research by the Getty experts in the sector. The team stated that they were working on new and significant evidence not available at the acquisition period.

Indeed, first doubts were born in 2015 when art dealer Fabrice Fourmanoir (specialized in Tahitian photography and art of 19th-century), discovered an image of that sculpture inside the Gauguin's close friend Jules Agostini album. The picture was titled "Idole Marquisienne" - "Marquis Idol" - and seems to suggest that this work was created by an indigenous carver of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. In addition, thank Fourmanoir's research,  it also emerged that the shot was taken before December 1894, when the alleged sculpture attribution was declared between 1895 - 1897. 

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In an official press release published in June 2002, the museum described the "Head with Horns" as a rare Polynesian self-portrait of the French symbolist painter. A work recognized only in two photographs found in Gauguin's personal diary of Noa Noa (his first trip to Tahiti). "Every visitor inside the Getty will be moved by this powerful and personal sculpture, which has been exhibited in Gauguin's home in Panaaiua, Tahiti," said at the time Barry Munitz, the president and chief executive officer of the J. Paul Getty trust. 

Cover image: Head with Horns, Paul Gauguin, French, 1848 - 1903, 1895 - 1897, Wood with traces of polychromy, Object (head): H: 22 x W: 22.8 x D: 12 cm (8 11/16 x 9 x 4 3/4 in.), Object (base): H: 20 x W: 25 x D: 17.5 cm (7 7/8 x 9 13/16 x 6 7/8 in.)


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