Ladies in white languish in the gray zone

The canceled auction of a painting by renowned Greek artist Dimitris Galanis that was expected to fetch more than 60,000 euros in London on May 20 is by no means the first occasion in which doubts have been raised about the authenticity of works of art. After Kathimerini revealed there were at least two other extant versions of the specific artwork, Bonhams auction house said it would have the painting re-examined and would withdraw it until then. One of the others is hanging in London’s Tate Gallery and a third was sold at Stuttgart’s Nagel Auction House in January, both bearing different versions of the artist’s signature. One year ago, the latter was offered to a Greek art dealer who doubted its authenticity and declined the offer. Shortly before the auction in Stuttgart, the artist’s signature on the painting was changed. There is no certainty as to which of the three is the original. The version that was due to be auctioned at Bonhams, valued at 64,000-89,000 euros (Lot 66), bears the artist’s signature in black. According to the catalog, it was discovered in Germany by the current owner and is an example of a less well-known period of Galanis’s work between 1907-1909 when he was working at various German publications. The painting, titled «Lady in White» (65×76.5 cm), was probably painted between 1909 and 1913. The catalog also refers to art historian Emmanouil Mavrommatis, who has written a thesis on the artist, and includes excerpts from his thesis. He told Kathimerini that he had never seen the painting in person and he had never been asked to check its authenticity. At last January’s auction at Nagel’s, a similar work titled «Lady in White» was attributed to Dimitris Galanis, valued at just 9,000 euros since the Germans were not sure that it belonged to Galanis’s works. The signature is also in the bottom right corner, but in orange and with a long tail on the final «s» in the surname, which is not on the painting at Bonhams. It measures 69×80 cm. It was eventually sold for 6,000 euros to a Greek art dealer who examined it under a special lamp before the auction. He told Kathimerini the signature was made some time after the painting was finished. According to sources, the previous owner of the painting had tried to sell the painting to another Greek art dealer a few months before the auction, when it bore a different signature reported to be that of Galanis. Earlier this week, Terpsichore Angelopoulou of Art Expertise, which represents Bonhams in Greece, told Kathimerini that she knew nothing about the painting in the Tate Gallery but the painting which was to be auctioned had been examined by an art historian who was an expert on Galanis – although she did not give his name – and that she would be carrying out her own investigation into the painting’s authenticity. «Works of art we examine for our auction catalogs come in three categories – those whose origins we know and believe are genuine, those that are clearly forgeries which we rule out immediately and others about which there are doubts,» said Angelopoulou, adding that prospective buyers can see the works up close and bring in their own experts. Auction houses do not make detailed technical examinations of all the paintings in an auction. However, for paintings to be exported for auction, they have to be stamped by the National Gallery. That does not mean their authenticity is checked, so it is possible that a forgery could pass through their hands.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.