Bartolomeo Di Giovanni

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Bartolomeo Di Giovanni
15th century
Reworked facsimile print of his Adoration of the Magi
Pen and light brown ink over a print (collotype); some surface damage filled in with white, on wove paper.
7 3/4 x 9 9/16 inches (198 x 252 mm)
Thaw Collection.

Watermark: forged circle and fleur-de-lis.
In March 2001 the Morgan received a letter from a gentleman in Denver, Colorado (hence referred to as JG) suggesting that he owned the authentic drawing of the Adoration of the Magi attributed to Bartolomeo di Giovanni and that the Morgan sheet is a copy-forgery. This prompted a close technical examination of the Morgan sheet by curatorial and conservation staff. The conclusion was that it is indeed a very sophisticated forgery, made by retouching a printed photograhic facsimile (collotype) of the lost original drawing which had been published in 1911 in a series called the Vasari Society (part VII, no. 1). Under raking light it became obvious that the watermark was not inherent in the paper but inscribed and that the paper did not have true chain lines - it is wove not laid paper. Some of the pen lines were redrawn with occasional additions. For instance, the Virgin's drapery was extended, the Christ Child given a lobed halo instead of a simple circular one, and changes were made to the position of the Christ Child's legs. Furthermore, the inscription was extended to read "Grillandaio" instead of "Grillandai". The forgery must have been made in 1911 or later (since a Vasari Society reproduction was used) and before or in 1962 when it is first illustrated in the catalogue of the Dr and Mrs Francis Springell sale at Sotheby's, London (28 June 1962, lot 7). The fact that the Christ Child has a lobed halo suggests that the forger may have been aware of the connection of the drawing with a fresco painted by Pinturicchio and his workshop in the Borgia Apartments in the Vatican, a connection which was first published in 1917 by Oskar Fischel (Die Zeichnungen der Umbrer, Berlin, 1917, p. 197, no. 107). It therefore seems likely that at an unknown point in time between 1917 and 1962 the forgery now at the Morgan was substituted for the original drawing. On 14 November 2002 JG of Denver kindly brought in his version of the drawing for examination. To everyone's surprise, this too turned out to be a facsimile from the Vasari Society publication. To make this second version look like an original the paper had been folded horizontally at top and the surface somewhat dirtied, but unlike the Morgan fake, none of the lines had been reworked with pen and ink. According to his letter of March 2001, Mr. JG had acquired his version "not long ago" from an antiquarian book seller in Devon, England, who had said that he had found the sheet laid between front pages of the large 1870s Prayer Book. The whereabouts of the true original remain unknown. (Rhoda Eitel-Porter)


Inscribed at lower left, in pen and ink, "Domenico Grillandaio."

Provenance of the lost original drawing: James Knowles, London; Henry Oppenheimer, London; his sale, London, Christie's, 10 July 1936, lot 86; Francis Springell, London; his sale, London, Sotheby's , 28 June 1962, lot 7 (the Morgan forgery); anonymous owner; sale, London, Sotheby's, 21 October 1963, lot 99; C.G. Boerner, Düsseldorf; William H. Schab Gallery, New York; Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw, New York.