The Alexander Turnbull Library was warned a historic painting was forgery, but bought it anyway.
The national heritage collector paid $75,000 at auction in 2013 for the portrait of a Maori man, identified as Hoani or Hamiora Maioha, signed G. Lindauer.
[$75,000 New Zealand Dollars converts to approx. $51,000 U.S. Dollars].
Before making the purchase, Victoria University colonial art expert Roger Blackley had told the library it was “strange” and a forgery.
But Turnbull’s own experts thought the painting was genuine.
“We backed our own judgment in the face of an assessment from an external expert,” chief librarian Chris Szekely said.
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The library put the portrait in its catalogue and also provided an image of it to the New Zealand Listener in 2014 for a major article on New Zealand portraiture.
However, earlier this year Auckland Art gallery conservator, Sarah Hillary analysed the painting as part of her preparation for a book on Lindauer. Her forensic study indicated that there was no way the work could be a Lindauer as it contained titanium dioxide, which was not available as an artist’s pigment when Lindauer was painting. She also pointed out that the brushwork was quite rough compared with the careful brushwork of Lindauer.