Found painting a work of art by Modigliani or an artful hoax? |

Found painting a work of art by Modigliani or an artful hoax?

The Associated Press

ROME — It's a story almost too fantastical to be true: A flea market dealer finds a painting near a subway trash bin, submits it to laboratory analysis and emerges convinced he has a Modigliani.

No one would believe it, given the modernist master is one of the most forged artists around.

But a public relations firm in Rome that doubles as the Amedeo Modigliani Institute is claiming a signed portrait of “Odette” could be the real deal. It is putting the work on public view next week, saying it hopes to start an academic debate on its authenticity.

“I assure you, this isn't a fake, and we are dealing with a discovery,” insisted Luciano Renzi, the institute's president and head of an eponymous publicity firm. The institute has no role or expertise in authenticating Modigliani works and has a financial interest in publicizing its exhibit.

The lab it hired refuses to date the painting.

Amedeo Modigliani died in 1920 in Paris at age 35 after a short but intense career that produced masterpieces, many featuring the distinctive lithe necks of his muses.

The painting was discovered as the Amedeo Modigliani Institute tries to recover from a credibility scandal involving forgeries and its past president, Christian Parisot, who was arrested in 2012 on charges he knowingly authenticated fake works. The institute wasn't implicated in the scandal, but its reputation suffered by association.

Experts cautioned that any purported Modigliani must be greeted with an overdose of skepticism, given the propensity for hoaxes and forgeries and the financial interests of all involved. Most significantly, “Odette” has no paper trail of past owners, rendering it virtually unsellable by any reputable gallery and problematic for any serious scholars to consider.

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