How to Spot a Fake Picasso –

How to Spot a Fake Picasso –


genuine print

Art authentication is something that I am extremely interest in so much so that I am currently studying art authentication at university. The issue of fakes and forgeries is much more serious than most people realise but because of the way the art market operates information relating to the sale of fakes and forgeries is often swept under the carpet. I recently came across an online auction which included a work which was described as a pencil signed etching by Picasso from the Vollard suite. As well as being signed, this etching also had a label and seal of authenticity from the Musee d’Orsay as well as a seal and stamp from Christie’s. The photos of the work confirmed that the work did have all these things. Problem is, the stamps, labels and seals were fake as was the etching it’s self. Here’s how I came to this conclusion.

1. The fourth picture shows the supposed label of authenticity from the Musee d’Orsay. First of all, the Musee d’Orsay does not provide any sort of written authentication documents for works of art. According to the museum’s website “The public establishment of the Musée d’Orsay does not provide certificates of authenticity for works of art. Any certificate of authenticity purporting to be from the Musée d’Orsay is therefore false, and its use is an offence under articles 441-1, and following articles, of the French penal code.”


fake print

2. The fake Musée d’Orsay label also has the incorrect title for this particular etching. The label lists the title as “ESCULPIENDO UNA CABEZA” when in fact this etching is from the famous Vollard Suite and is titled “Sculpteur, modele et buste sculpte”.

3. The signature is completely wrong (compare fake to genuine print)


fake Christie's stamp

4. The size of the fake is wrong. The plate mark of the genuine print is 26.6 h x 19.4 w cm whereas the size of the plate market of the fake is 11.5 h x 8 w cm.


fake Musee d'Orsay stamp

5. I managed to find another three prints being sold with the exact same stamps, labels and seals but with different reference numbers. The date of the Christie’s stamp is also the same (12 March 1972) for all the prints that I could find.

6. The fake looks wrong when compared to the original

7. Last but not least, the people selling these prints were selling them online for around the 500 euro mark where as genuine print from the edition is worth around 5000 euros at auction with some having sold for up to 10,000 euros. One of the sellers had the audacity to say that they had a certificate from a prestigious valuation firm that valued the fake they were selling at 6000 euros. Why would someone sell a print for 500 euros when they could easily get 5000 euros for it. As the old saying goes, if it is too good to be true is most probably is.

Stamps, seals, stickers,labels etc.  are extremely easy to fake and can give what may seem a watertight authenticity to a work.  I am seeing more and more fakes and forgeries with accompanying fake and forged indicators of authenticity.  The fact that many of these fakes and forgeries are sold at just a fraction of their true value should be the first thing that automatically make one suspicious of the authenticity of the work.  Sane people don’t sell works of art for a 10th of their value online if they are aware of their value and could just as easily get the full value elsewhere.

image 1:
Genuine print
Sculpteur, modele et buste sculpte. (Sculptor, model and sculpted bust.)
17 March 1933
intaglio etching
plate-mark 26.6 h x 19.4 w cm

image 2:
fake print

image 3:
fake Christie’s stamp

image 4:
fake Musee d’Orsay stamp

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.