Because the provenance of works of art is seldom clear and because their origin is often judged by means of subtle factors, art forgery has always been commonplace. The sorts of deception involved include the complete production of a work that is passed off as being of a particular period, false claims regarding materials or workmanship, the piecing together of old fragments to simulate antiquity, the selling as originals of faithful copies that were not intended to be taken as anything but copies, and the false attribution of minor works to great masters. Forgeries are distinguished from falsifications, which include copies or even mechanical reproductions not initially meant to pass for the original, in that they are intended to defraud. These sorts of deceptions, made for financial gain, reflect prevailing taste and fashion, conventions in collecting, and current modes of art criticism.
See also counterfeiting.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.