By Livia Lupi

On this day (29 June) in 1868, sculptor Giovanni Bastianini died in Florence.

He was born near Fiesole on 17 September 1830 and became famous for producing highly accomplished art forgeries of fifteenth-century Florentine art that fooled many authoritative figures and institutions.

Bastianini , where he worked as a stone carver until Francesco Inghirami encouraged him to train in Florence with Pio Fedi and Girolamo Torrini. He started producing copies of fifteenth-century sculptures that he sold for a modest price, until he began working for the antique dealer Giovanni Freppa, who sold his work as fifteenth-century originals.

The scam was uncovered by Freppa himself, when Bastianini’s terracotta bust of Girolamo Benivieni, which he had sold to a Parisian collector, was later acquired by the Louvre at the astronomical price of 13250 francs. Freppa revealed the bust was not a fifteenth-century original, but he was not immediately believed by all.

As heated discussion around his work continued, Bastianini died n Florence in 1868 at only 38 years of age. The following year, the V&A in London acquired a few of his statues, after recognising that a sculpture they bought in 1857 and believed to be a Quattrocento original, was actually Bastianini’s. Bastianini died in Florence on 29 June 1868.

Reference: Otto Kurz. “Bastianini Giovanni.” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Enciclopedia Treccani

Read also IAS member Anita Moskowitz’s article on The Florentine and her book Forging Authenticity. Giovanni Bastianini and the Neo-Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Florence (Olschki, 2013).

Bust of Girolamo Benivieni, 1863, terracotta. Louvre, Paris.

Portrait of Girolamo Benivieni, 1860s, plaster. V&A, London.

Bust of a Lady, c.1860, terracotta. V&A, London.

Bust of Giovanna Albizzi, c. 1860, gesso and tempera on wood. National Gallery, Washington D.C.

Chanteuse Florentine, polychromed and gilded terracotta. Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris.

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