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Table of contents

There is a reason the most passionate foes of income inequality tend to be very affluent but not super rich, intellectuals like Paul Krugman and other journalists eager to set the threshold for confiscatory tax rates just beyond their own income levels Piketty's argument Jonah Goldberg, "Mr. But Internal Revenue Service records show that it was 63 percent in If Piketty can't even get his facts straight, why should his grandiose plans for confiscatory global taxation be taken seriously? Thomas Sowell, "Random thoughts on the passing scene," May 27, Economists agree that a large capital stock is a key ingredient for prosperity, as it expands our productive capacity and raises worker productivity, which in turns increases wages and consumer purchasing power.

Our capital stock is comparatively much smaller today than it was before the Great Depression. Thomas F. Cooley and Lee E. France's social crisis is owed in part to the country's economic failure. Growth is nonexistent. A quarter of French youth are unemployed.

FRANCIA MEDIA

The day the Van Gogh authenticity debate took on an entirely new aspect can be indicated precisely. On 27 January , the Italian daily Corriere della Sera published an article on the land surveyor Antonio de Robertis. He put forward the theory that this painting, which is unsigned and is not mentioned in the artist's letters, was in fact a copy made by Claude-Emile Schuffenecker. What had triggered De Robertis' doubts was his suspicion that various labels on the reverse side of the canvas and the frame had been either faked or swapped. Many of the works named in Bailey's article had already been questioned by other experts.


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Bailey cited, in addition to Landais, the still unpublished research of Roland Dorn and Walter Feilchenfeldt. Dorn and Feilchenfeldt have fully substantiated their claims. The revised edition of Jan Hulsker's oeuvre catalogue, 61 which was published shortly before Bailey's article, has only added to the confusion. Hulsker places question marks against the catalogue entries of 45 works, but left the issue open as to whether he was querying the authenticity of the respective pictures or merely casting doubt on their hitherto accepted dates.

Introduction

Conversely, various works that have meanwhile been definitively identified as fakes and eliminated from Van Gogh's oeuvre - such as the Self-portrait in Vienna 62 or the Still-life with bottle of wine, two glasses and a plate with bread and cheese F JH at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam 63 - are still listed as authentic. At least one of the works he catalogues does not even exist. The media did their bit to ensure that the fakes debate quickly gathered momentum. In Germany, the art historian Matthias Arnold immediately followed up Landais's contentions; in the United Kingdom, the journalist Geraldine Norman succeeded in publicising the debate on a national scale.

Franz Schubert

Suddenly, the Van Gogh myth was drawing its sustenance from a completely new source. Art-historical research had apparently exhausted the Van Gogh theme in all its aspects, and in so doing had altogether demystified it: the legend that he had been able to sell just that one famous painting during his lifetime had lost its magic, 67 as had the story of the severed ear and the long-held romantic notion that his lack of success was voluntary, even desired. A new Van Gogh myth was born. Thus it was that the debate triggered by De Robertis and Landais was not just an art-historical one.

It had a media-sociological component, too. What was essential in this regard was that the roles should be clearly defined: a few. Davids in the form of supposedly impartial amateur researchers fighting against the seemingly all-powerful Goliath represented by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which spoke out regularly in defence of the authenticity of the Sunflowers.

Hardly a single journalist has since omitted to insinuate, discreetly or otherwise, that the museum has lost its integrity and impartiality - journalists, as we know, love the kind of story that can be told entirely in terms of black and white. That the media soon focussed its attention solely on the Sunflowers controversy and, moreover, unquestioningly accepted the theories put forward by De Robertis, Landais and Arnold, is quite astonishing, inasmuch as not a single item of proof has been furnished in the course of the debate so far.

De Robertis and Landais have, from the very outset, based their theories purely on circumstantial evidence. Neither has had an opportunity to view the painting in the original. From until its sale at auction in March , the painting was in the possession of the family of the British mining engineer Chester Beatty. During this period it was loaned to the National Gallery in London on two occasions, from and from While the painting was at the National Gallery, hanging next to the museum's own version of the Sunflowers F JH , no material or stylistic examinations were undertaken by any outside researchers.

The theory that numerous Van Gogh paintings are actually the work of Claude-Emile Schuffenecker - a theory that has likewise been all too willingly endorsed by the media - is still awaiting proof. However, anyone who saw the Schuffenecker exhibition in Pont-Aven in the autumn of 72 and has since worked his way through the oeuvre catalogue published by Jill-Elyse Grossvogel four years later will realise that, despite the more than scanty information and the poor quality of reproduction in the second publication, 73 Schuffenecker did not even have the ability to produce a fake of the quality found in the version of the Sunflowers under discussion.

The fact that almost all accusations of forgery have been made at times when the works concerned were widely publicised, mostly through sensational auctions or exhibitions, has meant that the media has been able to draw attention to the fakes debate again and again.

FRANCIA MEDIA, BURGUNDY

When the Reader's Digest Collection came up for auction in November , doubts were expressed concerning the authenticity of the painting Thatched cottages in Jorgus F JH , 75 while on the occasion of the Van Gogh retro-. One of the biggest stirs was created by a report on the Garden at Auvers , 77 a work that had once before been the focus of public interest. The banker Jean-Marc Vernes thereupon purchased the painting for the relatively small sum of 55 million francs. The French Supreme Court ordered the government to pay Walter's heirs compensation amounting to million francs.

When four years later it became known that Vernes's heirs intended to offer the painting for sale, 79 the French press expressed some scepticism - a good two and half months prior to the auction - regarding this unusual painting's authenticity. As the ongoing fakes debate showed no signs of subsiding, by the end of the s several museums felt obliged to react to the various forgery accusations. Between and , Gachet's heirs had donated nine paintings, six drawings and an etching by Van Gogh, as well as numerous memorabilia, to the Louvre. However, the Paris show which later travelled to New York and Amsterdam and the results of the concomitant examination of the material and style of the exhibited works gave no reason to doubt the authenticity of those works with a Gachet provenance.

Even Theo's son, Vincent-Willem van Gogh, had expressed his doubts about the picture's authenticity. Although the Sunflowers controversy had in the meantime quietened down, it was revived again when in the run-up to the exhibition Van Gogh and Gauguin: the studio of the south experts from The Art Institute of Chicago and the Van Gogh Museum were afforded the unique opportunity of examining the Tokyo Sunflowers and its Amsterdam counterpart in detail.

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The media largely accepted the authors' conclusions, according to which there was nothing that spoke against, but plenty that spoke in favour of, the authenticity of the Yasuda version. Even Martin Bailey, who had previously allocated a. Whilst De Robertis, too, was not unimpressed by the results of the Hendricks and Tilborgh study, he still sticks to his opinion, expressed over the past years with equal vehemence and frequency, that the picture cannot possibly have been painted by Van Gogh; however, during the Amsterdam symposium in March he did have a change of heart: he now no longer attributes it to Schuffenecker, but rather to Paul Gauguin.

Still, the fakes debate has not been without positive consequences: no matter how unfounded and absurd all the many forgery theories may have seemed, numerous museums have in fact begun to subject their Van Gogh works to critical examination - and with interesting results. Most of them have been taken off display [ Some of the museums cited have themselves in recent years publicised the fact that works originally attributed to Van Gogh may no longer be considered genuine.

In , Sotheby's withdrew the painting Street and stairs with five figures F JH prior to a planned auction on account of its dubious authenticity. Thus the debate on the authenticity of Van Gogh's works as conducted in the public sphere during the past ten years is not first and foremost an art-historical one. Indeed, it has meanwhile become a media-psychological phenomenon in which amateur researchers, scholars and the press have formed an alliance for their mutual benefit: whilst authors use the media as a means of spreading their own fame, the latter uses the ever-new Van Gogh theories put forward by these authors as a way of attracting new readers and viewers.

Correspondingly, little attention has been paid in the past to the results of the academic treatments of the theme - they are evidently too dry and uninteresting. Whereas the press could not get its fill of reports on the suspicions surrounding the Sunflowers , the Garden at Auvers and The garden of St Paul's hospital , the experts' reports testifying to the authenticity of these same works barely received a mention.

This phenomenon can hardly be expected to change very much in the future, either, for Van Gogh's oeuvre will continue to give rise to questions - those concerning the. Various Van Gogh paintings were altered or retouched after the artist's death - by whom and for what reason is unknown. Typical examples are Peat boat with two figures F 21 JH , to which a small fence was added at some point; 97 and Cottage with peasant coming home F JH , which since being illustrated in De la Faille in has undergone changes to the cottage roof and to the branches of the tree standing next to it.

These changes possibly became necessary after the sky had been retouched. Other paintings that might also be examined under this aspect are Peasant woman digging up potatoes F JH and The Nuenen vicarage by moonlight, seen from the garden F JH There are early photographs of both paintings showing skies that seem to be different than those featured by the paintings today. Clarification is easier in the case of some of the later paintings that have evidently been altered.

Bibliographical Bone Yard

Claude-Emile Schuffenecker, for example, is clearly responsible for enlarging the format of the Tokyo Sunflowers and for overpainting the cat in Daubigny's garden. The apples in Still life with apples, pears, lemons and grapes F JH may have been added by Edgar Degas, who was one of the very earliest owners of the painting. Van Gogh and the questions concerning the origin and authenticity of his works will thus continue to occupy us in the future.

The position he holds in the history of art, both as an artist and as a human being, is unique - not least on account of the extraordinarily rapid development of the myth surrounding him. It is precisely for this reason that the meticulous and scholarly approach of museums and academic institutions will always be called for. Of course - and one does not need to have the gift of prophecy to forecast this - we can also expect to be confronted by even more theories based on circumstantial evidence, assumptions and the seemingly indestructible Van Gogh legend. And the media, too, will continue to spread and celebrate forgery theories, no matter how absurd and unfounded they may be: Van Gogh is always good for a headline, and Van Gogh fakes every time.

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