There can be unexpected ramifications to keeping cats, as art forgers described in Science magazine discovered to their regret.
In an article on how experts check the authenticity of a putative Velázquez or a painting found along with mummies, Lizzie Wade writes, “Investigations into the artist responsible for more modern works often have a specific goal: To figure out if the work in question is a forgery.
“Bonnie Magness-Gardine manages the Art Theft Program at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C. For many years, she and other investigators had seen innumerable forgeries of the work of Clementine Hunter, a self-taught and incredibly prolific African-American painter from Louisiana.
“Many people tried to copy her distinctive folk-art style, but only two regularly succeeded: William Toye and his wife Beryl Ann Toye, a couple from New Orleans. They were so good at imitating Hunter’s style that ‘they got away with this for years,’ Magness-Gardine says.
“In 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation finally gathered enough evidence to confiscate the Toyes’ supposed Hunter collection, and during the raid they noticed that ‘they lived in a very modest house with approximately 30 cats,’ Magness-Gardine says.
“When forensic investigators analyzed the seized works, they found cat hair embedded in the paint — a characteristic not shared by Hunter’s authentic work. ‘That’s essentially what brought them down,’ Magness-Gardine says. William Toye pled guilty to art fraud in 2011.”
Art: Clementine Hunter/ Bridgeman Images
Picking Cotton, 1950s (oil on board), Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund. Hunter is a favorite of would-be forgers.