In an ironic twist of fate this painting by William Hogarth, which was donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington by the American philanthropist Paul Mellon in 1983, has been judged to be a fake by academics working for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.
The painting, which was originally believed to be one of five versions of A Scene from the Beggar’s Opera that Hogarth painted sometime during the late 1720s, will be offically ‘outed’ as a forgery in a catalogue raisonné due to be published by the Paul Mellon Centre next month. Elizabeth Einberg, the British Hogarth expert responsible compiling the book, concluded that “The touch, the colour… the handling of the paint is not simply not the same” as that of a true Hogarth.
Professor Robin Simon, author of Hogarth, France and British Art, alerted Einberg to the possibility of the work being a forgery after making close comparisons between the Washington painting and those known to be by Hogarth. He concluded that “Hogarth was incredibly careful to make sure you could recognise… individual actors [and their] roles in each of the four versions…. In the Washington picture you can’t make out anybody’s individual features.” Asked whether Mellon would be disappointed at the discovery, he said that the philanthropist and avid art collector would “fully approve” of any outcome which advanced our understanding the artist’s work.
A copy of one of the genuine Hogarth versions of this painting can be seen here for comparison.
This story was originally reported in the Sunday Times on 23rd October 2016 and can be found here.