Picasso, Chagall Forgery Ring Jailed in France
By Emma Allen
Published: July 20, 2010
Courtesy the Clark Museum, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Picasso’s “Woman Ironing,” 1904 — the genuine article
CRETEIL, France— “Do you think I should confess?” Orson Welles, says in his final film, “F for Fake,” quoting the notorious art forger Elmyr de Hory. “To what? Committing masterpieces?” On Friday, a similar question was resoundingly answered in court in Creteil, France, where 12 men were sentenced for an elaborate art con in which they sold almost 100 forged paintings — nearly impeccable copies of works by Picasso, Chagall, and Leger, to name a few — between the years of 1997 and 2005.
Painter Guy Ribes and dealer Pascal Robaglia, the ringleaders of the operation, were handed two years in jail and fined €900,000 ($1.16 million), with the 10 others receiving a range of sentences. Ribes, according to the Agence France-Presse, told the jury that he has been forging paintings “for fun” since 1975. His partners in crime, then, took turns assuming the role of a hard-up heir, selling the family collection for fast cash — and bringing in up to $458,000 dollars for works.
But, as in the case of Elmyr, penitence seems far off. Those present at the trial, “recognized [Ribes] as an artist and not simply a forger,” the painter’s lawyer, Antonin Levy, insisted of his felonious client.