Jérôme Montcouquiol is an expert at the Turquin firm in Paris. A research center serving more than 300 auction houses in Paris, in the provinces and abroad, as well as private individuals. For the specialist, the Terrus affair spoiled the centenary of the artist’s death.
Jérôme Montcouquiol was commissioned as part of the investigation to appraise the suspicious paintings in December 2017, he submitted his report in January 2018. For him, the conclusion is clear. “It’s so obvious they’re fake. Except for one or two. The glued papers, the canvases on cardboard come from manufacturers of post-war painting materialshe explains. When you remove the Marie-Louise, you discover posterior supports from 20 to 30 years at the time of Étienne Terrus. There is no shadow of a doubt. And there are certain works that have a double signature. Behind the canvas we see that there is the name of another author. These are coarse and vulgar fakes, of those found for 20 to 30 euros in flea markets in Spain” .
What will the new expert appointed in this case say? Will it bring new additional elements to this first evidence of counterfeits? No one can tell. But Jérôme Montcouquiol already estimates the consequences of this case.
Certainly, “the stakes are still not those of a Cézanne or Van Gogh advice. We are on works of 500 to 800 euros. Everything is unfortunate in this case. First, contrary to what has been said here and there, the paintings were not hung in the Elne museum, they were in reserve and offered for exhibition. After taking 20 to 30 years to make the name of Étienne Terrus stand out, we didn’t succeed and he became very famous on this fake… There is real rehabilitation work to be done. It prevents us from talking about the real works of the artist, from showing them and above all, it spoils the centenary of the death of Étienne Terrus. We could have imagined something big especially with the exhibition “Monfreid under the sun of Gauguin” at the Rigaud museum in Perpignan. It could have echoed something around Terrus who crossed paths with Monfreid at Collioure. But museums are not the only victims, especially in terms of image, but they are also individuals. It paralyzes. And above all, it caused the artist’s and the entire market’s rating to drop completely. Because there are also fake Bauzil, fake Hanicotte… There has to be a court decision because the alleged perpetrators have completely disappeared from the market. For me, the real culprit is the one who authenticated them“.
Perpignan: a “true-false” Van Gogh
The surreal story could be taken from a good movie. However, it is in no way fiction but rather the true story of a promoter from Perpignan. In 1986, Albert Chelli contacted the Van Gogh committee to authenticate a family painting called Fontaine dans un parc. Specialists refuse, even if French experts attest to the contrary, including Loic Le Ribault, one of the founders of the national scientific police. No matter, the entrepreneur does not give up the fight, knocks on doors, multiplies the letters, goes on television, even in Japan. “This story dragged on for years“, recounts Albert Chelli. “Until today, when I received a letter from one of the largest American law firms. We got in touch, they asked me what I intended to do with it if this painting was recognized as a Van Gogh. I replied: I’m selling it. They said to me: Perfect, we’ll take care of it, we’ll take a stake in the sale (the work is then estimated at around 150 million francs, editor’s note) and you won’t have to pay anything. They wrote a single letter to the committee and we got an answer right away. The Van Gogh experts agreed, but conditionally. They wanted me to take the painting to the museum in Amsterdam. But he had to be insured, and no insurance accepted since there was no authentication yet. Then the Minister of Culture at the time forbade us to take the painting out of France. And then I started having a whole series of tax audits. I lived through hell and at that time I had built big projects in Perpignan“.
The pressure is too strong. “I said stopcontinues the promoter. It was a little before the year 2000. Anyway, they don’t want to recognize it because each time a new painting is authenticated the rating goes down. We put it in a safe in a bank in Paris and we don’t talk about it anymore. But we’ll see… Loïc Le Ribault had told me that there was, and that we could perhaps make them speak one day, like hair embedded in the paint or brush or beard hairs.“. Van Gogh’s beard?