Saturday 12 December 2020

A Fake in Detroit: An Addendum

Regular readers will remember the fake miniature of Abelard (shown above) about which I posted a year ago , and mentioned again in February this year.

It was given to Detroit in March 1925:

"Given by Mrs. John S. Newberry (23 March 1925)."

I can now take the provenance back a little further.

Two and a half months further, to be precise.

The miniature was lot 593 in the sale, in the middle of January 1925, of "the collection made by the well-known European connoisseur, Georges Spetz, contained in his private museum in Alsace, France for the past seventy-five years":


"593 - ABELARD
Illuminated miniature on vellum: Height 6¼ inches; width 4 inches
The Philosophic Abelard is seated on a green mound ..."

I know very little about Georges Spetz (1844-1914), but there is a brief French Wikipedia page about him, with a photo of the man surrounded by part of his collection:


I made the link between the Abelard cutting and Spetz because I noticed that it is described on one of the stock cards of the Brummer Gallery, NYC (discussed in a series of blogposts starting here):

The card transcribes the auction catalogue description:
"Illuminated miniature on vellum representing: The Philosophic Abelard is seated on a green mound..."
and ends with the dimensions and price paid, $45.00 (hence the "45" annotation in red in the auction catalogue image above), and at the very bottom:
"Bought at Georges Spetz Sale, American Art Galleries, January 16 1925".
In the left margin is written in pencil, and in red ink across the main description: "Sold to Detroit Institute of Arts, March 30 1925, $240.00". So Brummer applied a more than five-fold increase in price, and were able to sell it within three months. Rather a handsome and swift profit, especially considering that it is a fake!

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