By Livia Lupi

Sculptor Giovanni Bastianini was born near Fiesole on 17 September 1830. He 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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