Arnau, Frank. The Art of the Faker: Three Thousand Years of Deception. Translated from the
German by J. Maxwell Brownjohn. Boston: Little, Brown, 1961. (Hawley Library catalogues the
book on an author card with the name Schmitt, Heinrich rather than as above.)
This is a history of and the story of frauds, fakes and phonies in art: oils, sculpture, coins,
semi-precious stones, handles, paperweights, ceramics, furniture and so on.
The reason this book belongs in a listing on fraud is the author's appreciation of the thin frontier
in intermediate categories between fraud and nonfraud. For example: creative works are often
assisted by students. What has to be the proportion done by the master before the work is his? A
fake can, also, be a work of art. Any number of masters produced copies of previous works. A
work of art may be unsigned and a signature added may do nothing for the picture but raise the
price. Is it a forgery if a few additions have added to its ornamentation? Some might say that a
forgery is something covered by the intent of the forger, but think about that definition and one
runs into matters of law, of interpretation, of judgment. What about the intention of salving one's
ego? The competent but unrecognized artist may sign his own works with another master's name
and thereby achieve fame for his piece if not for himself. (And what is important in art? Is it the
name of the artist?)
Forgery in art is an extremely lucrative field. The forger provides a service to the public and
private collectors who have been motivated by a variety of feelings to make outrageous bids on
works. As prices have increased, so has the attraction of the forgery. The risks are worth it.
If one translates this balance of risk to benefit in the field of science, one can see immediately
how Big Science has created a need for a cost/benefit analysis in science itself. Scientific Big
Names are in demand - if not to be put in Mensa, then to be put in academies where all are
enhanced by their presence. If their works are in demand, book sellers and lesser lights can make
a living off them.