29 August 2006
An interesting auction just wrapped up on eBay yesterday. I spotted this 'Fuertes original' in a no reserve auction about a week ago. There seemed to be a little something fishy about the whole thing. First, it was the style of the piece, very rough, unfinished looking and characterized by a lot of ragged dry brush work on the edges. It could however be one of his very early works. Something he painted when he was very young, hence of a different style. One character of the piece that lends creedence to that theory is the ink outlining in various spots on the bird. Fuertes was hugely influenced by Audubon, especially when he was young and many of his early pieces were watercolor outlined in ink to give the same engraving look seen in the Audubon etchings. The subject matter is another issue. The bird is a King of Saxony Bird of Paradise...a species Fuertes never saw in life, unless it was in captivity. As a young artist though, this dramatic subject may have simply been an interesting species to paint after seeing specimens or illustrations, perhaps conjuring thoughts of the wilds of New Guinea. The signature was another issue. The characters look right, but in ink, Fuertes signature would easily be reproduced...forged.
I took a look at the sellers ratings and they were very good. No reason to suspect fraudulent activities there. The provenance is listed...'this piece is from a weekend outdoor estate sale in Upstate New York', definitely lacking in detail with no real verifiable information.
In the end, I am scratching my head. My misgivings aside, it could certainly be a genuine Fuertes. The piece sold for $1,525 after only a small flurry of bids. Any thoughts from Fuertes scholars lurking out there?