Giovanni Bastianini

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Giovanni Bastianini (17 September 1830 – 29 June 1868) was an Italian sculptor who began his career as a stonecutter in the quarries at Fiesole, and was sent by Francesco Inghirami to study in Florence, first with Pio Fedi and then with Girolamo Torrini, with whom he collaborated on a statue of Donatello for the portico of the Uffizi. Bastianini's name became famous in connection with his unmasking as the first widely publicized art forger.

Life and career[edit]

Bastianini admired Renaissance sculpture, which became his main inspiration. From 1848 to 1866 he was under contract to the Florentine antique dealer, Giovanni Freppa, who supplied him with casts and models as well as a stipend, in exchange for which Bastianini produced numerous neo-Renaissance works, especially busts and bas-reliefs in the style of Donatello, Verrocchio, Mino da Fiesole and other Italian Old Masters, most of which were sold at modest prices.

In the early 1860s Freppa and Bastianini grew more ambitious. Following the success of Bastianini's bust of Savonarola, carefully coloured and aged by the sculptor Francesco Gaiarini [1] and placed in Inghirami's Florentine villa, where it was "discovered" by the eminent Florentine art dealer Capponi and bought for the nation, Bastianini crafted a portrait bust of the poet Girolamo Benivieni, which Freppa commissioned; exhibited to great acclaim in Paris as "school of Verrocchio", it was purchased by comte de Nieuwerkerke for the Louvre at auction for fr 13,600.

None of the pieces had been suspected of being inauthentic, and the deception was eventually revealed by Freppa, who resented not receiving his agreed-upon percentage of the exaggerated price paid by the Louvre Museum. The Paris press made hay.[2]

Many of the owners of Bastianini's pastiches stood by the artistic value of the works. Giovanni Costa, who had contributed to the funding of the Savonarola purchase, allowed that he was glad to hear the artist was living.[3]

Having purchased as genuine works Bastianini forgeries,[4] in 1864 the Victoria and Albert Museum in London knowingly bought a sculpture by Bastianini, as an example of modern work inspired by the best of the past; it is exhibited with other works by Bastianini formerly thought genuine. Bastianini's tin-glazed terracotta Portrait of a Lady in the Della Robbia technique, authenticated by Bernard Berenson as a "15th century Della Robbia bust of Marietta Strozzi" found its way through Joseph Duveen to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brunori, Dionisio. Giovanni Bastianini e Paolo Ricci, scultori fiesolani. Firenze: Tipografia Domenicana, 1906, p. 15, note 3.
  2. ^ "Article after article was printed in the leading journals of Paris, denouncing 'the well-known impostor and forger Bastianini' with all that vituperative eloquence in which our neighbours so highly excel." ("The City of Lilies", Temple Bar, 37, 1873:478.
  3. ^ Mark Jones, Fake?: the art of deception British Museum, 1990:197.
  4. ^ Mark Jones, Fake?: the art of deception British Museum, 1990:196, a bas-relief of the Madonna and Child, a pastiche of Antonio Rossellino (for the Virgin) and Desiderio da Settignano (for the Child).
  5. ^ David Sox, Unmasking the Forger: the Dossena deception, 2008:130f.

Further reading[edit]

  • Helstosky, Carol (2009). "Giovanni Bastianini, Art Forgery, and the Market in Nineteenth‐Century Italy". The Journal of Modern History. 81 (4): 793–823. doi:10.1086/605486..
  • Moskowitz, Anita F. (2004). "The Case of Giovanni Bastianini: A Fair and Balanced View". Artibus et Historiae. 25 (50): 157–185. JSTOR 1483793.
  • Moskowitz, Anita F. (2006). "The Case of Giovanni Bastianni-II: A Hung Jury?". Artibus et Historiae. 27 (54): 201–217. JSTOR 20067129.
  • Moskowitz, Anita F. "Forging authenticity -- Giovanni Bastianini and the Neo-Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Florence" ISBN 978 88 222 6171 7
  • Tina Öcal: Shape-shifters of Transculturation: Giovanni Bastianini’s Forgeries as Embodiment of an Aesthetic Patriotism, in: Faking, Forging, Counterfeiting. Discredited Practices at the Margins of Mimesis, ed. by Becker, Daniel / Fischer, Annalisa / Schmitz, Yola, Bielefeld 2018, pp. 111–126.

External links[edit]