I've been collecting information, researching forgery, (mainly art forgery, but also literary forgery) for several years now. I have a huge folder of articles, a couple shelves worth of books. The subject of forgery has cropped up in various ways in poems. The first poem in my first book is titled "Self-Portrait: Threads from an Art Forger's Diary" and since then, I think I've been trying to get back to something in that poem. The project I'm working on now is an investigation into the possibility of the existence of a female art forger. Experimental fiction, I guess you could call it.
I've been looking at the above image all morning, and looking at the article in the New York Times. Is it by Leonardo da Vinci? I guess I'm on the side of the skeptics. I did think that this bit was interesting:
"Nicholas Turner, a former curator of drawings at the British Museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, saw the work last December and was struck by the left-handed shading — Leonardo was left-handed — as well as the physiognomy and the details. They all point in the direction of Leonardo, he said, adding, “I recommended that that avenue of inquiry be pursued among Leonardo specialists.”
A left-handed forger perhaps? Well, all this said, it is a rather beautiful portrait, Leonardo or no. Something too perfect about it though. Can't put my finger on it. Of course I'm no Thomas Hoving.
The above is a letter forged by Lee Israel, author of Can You Ever Forgive Me? Memoirs of a Literary Forger. There's a review and more examples of the forgeries in the Times here. From the review by Thomas Mallon:
"Israel displayed an excellent ear and fine false turn of phrase during the 15 or so months in the early 1990s when she sold hundreds of phony celebrity letters — and a lot of filched real ones — to about 30 different dealers. Now, all these years later, she’s written a slender, sordid and pretty damned fabulous book about her misadventures."
The book as object is interesting in and of itself. It's printed on paper with a newsprintish feeling and then the jacket is brilliant. White with embossed courier font. Above the author's name are the names of writers whose letters she forged, with Xs over the letters. Then the signature - an original (if massed produced)! A "TLS" is a 'typed letter signed' - and the signature seems to have been the toughest bit to pull off for Israel. The back of the book has what at first glance seems to be the usual endorsements - but of course they're fakes. The plugs are by Noel Coward, George S. Kaufman, Katherine Hepburn, Groucho Marx and Clara Blandick/Auntie Em from the Wizard of Oz.
It's pretty easy to forgive Israel as it turns out. It's a slim book, but, as Mallon says, pretty damned fabulous. I do wonder, however, if all my library friends would let her off the hook so easily....