Recently a customer contacted me with what she thought was a Monet painting.
She asked a reputable company to look for an authentication about her unsigned Claude Monet painting. After a couple of months and a $ 15,000.00 expense this reputable company told her that the painting was not by the hand of Claude Monet.
At first I would say that if a painting isn't signed by a painter this should say you already that
- the painter didn't consider his painting totally finished and postponed to sign it after he had completed all the elements. An unfinished work will not be signed by an artist, this is a common rule in the art world.
- the reputable company of authenticators should have said to their client that an unsigned painting will have very little if not "no chance" to be recognized as authentic, especially Monet. It is already very difficult to convince the Wildenstein Institute that with a perfect provenance, a signed Claude Monet is authentic. Unsigned ...no history ... impossible to defend the painting in an argumentation with the Wildenstein.
- you may find unsigned painting in old masters usually. It is very rare to find unsigned modern works unless they were sold in auction as an atelier sale. Degas Corot had this type of sale.
The lady contacted me and told me she must have confused Manet and Monet.
And this time her painting was a Manet...
After some verifications I realized that if this was effectively a very nice painting showing the traces of age, it could have been painted by many major artists, or even have been a copy from period of a major artist.
I explained her that it will be very pricey to try to find out who the painter was, and if she didn't have an unlimited budget to make this research it would be better to abandon this project because, without any signature, it will have 0,1% chance be obtain an authentication.
She contacted me again but this time with a signed Degas. The painting was authentic and obtained her authentication. It pays off to be honest with customers, especially through the emails and internet, you never know with who you are dealing with.
Gerard Van Weyenbergh