Art News

Israeli Art Detectives Crack a Forgery Riddle

By: Matti Friedman, Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP).- The portrait of a glum, bespectacled man was about to go on auction in Amsterdam when someone at Sotheby’s noticed a problem: Israel’s national museum owned precisely the same painting. One of them had to be a fake. For curators at the Israel Museum, cracking the riddle of the Jozef Israels self-portrait and its mysterious twin meant tracking down a tale about a forgotten Turkish pasha and an eccentric Jerusalem artist, and using infrared cameras to peer underneath the painting’s muted oils. The impostor, they now say, has been revealed. It is nearly as old as the original, and its provenance is more interesting. Israels, the man who painted the original, was a renowned Dutch artist of the 19th century whose style drew comparisons with Rembrandt and whose works today regularly fetch tens of thousands of dollars. The first self-portrait, the one in the museum’s collection, had been given by Israels himself to a friend,