February 16th, 2012

Sale of Forged Photos Embarrasses French Auction House

French police have opened an investigation into the sale at auction of 153 vintage photographs that are suspected of being forgeries, according to a report in The Art Newspaper.

The sale took place last March at Artcurial Deauville, an auction house in the city of Deauville near Le Havre on the English Channel. The auction house said prior to the sale that the photographs in question were made in 1848, and that they were from a collection alleged to have come from the family of a minor artist, Charles Edouard de Crespy Le Prince, who died in 1850.

The sale totaled €554,200, but some of the collectors who purchased lots have refused to pay or asked for the sales to be canceled and their money refunded after inspecting the works.

The investigation was initiated when Grégory Leroy, the independent expert who presided over the sale and initially verified the authenticity of the photographs, made a complaint to French police in December.

“This seems to have been a carefully prepared swindle,” Leroy told The Art Newspaper. “We were all taken in.”

The consignors, who are said to have bought the works in the 1990s believing they were authentic, sued the auction house unsuccessfully in December for the money owed to them from the sale.

Police have not commented on who, if anyone, they suspect in the forgery of the works.