Fraud on canvas: Famous Titian painting in Zurich a copy, expert claims

Fraud on canvas: Famous Titian painting in Zurich a copy, expert claims

A story by the Tages-Anzeiger has caused an uproar in the art community in Zurich. In it, an art expert revealed that a famous painting said to be by the Italian artist Titian, called Evening landscape with a pair of figures and held at the Kunsthaus, is most likely a copy of a painting recently discovered in the Netherlands.

Art historian thinks Titian in Kunsthaus is a fraud

Speaking to the newspaper, art historian Karim Khan said that he had made a significant discovery while looking for artworks on the internet. While perusing an auction site, he found a painting entitled Lovers with a lute in a romantic landscape that looked like a near-carbon copy of Evening landscape with a pair of figures by Titian, which is currently being held at the Kunsthaus in Zurich - one of Switzerland's top museums.

Khan, who is an expert in finding lost or forgotten art, especially those of the old masters, found that the painting was being held at an auction house in Hilversum, a small Dutch town between Amsterdam and Amersfoort. On the site, the artist’s name is listed as “unknown”, although the Van Zadelhoff auction house catalogue assumes the work to be from the "artist circle" of Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin. 

Titian painting in Zurich is likely a 19th-century copy

Upon closer inspection, Khan told the Tages-Anzeiger that the painting in Hilversum is "older and more elaborate" than the one in the Kunsthaus, and that when compared, the landscape, people and buildings all look the same. He therefore concluded that the painting in Zurich - which cost the museum 1 million francs to buy - is likely a copy of the Hilversum piece, which had a starting bid of 2.400 euros, although later sold at auction for 45.000 euros.

In fact, Khan estimated that the while the Hilversum painting is from the 17th or 18th century, what he called the Zurich “copy” is likely from the 19th century, 300 years after the life of Titian. What’s more, he noted that the while the Kunsthaus had changed their painting's description from “Titian” to “attributed to Titian” - after concerns were raised about the authenticity of the picture in 2019 - the expert they used to evaluate the painting was not a Titian expert.

Kunsthaus Zurich will look into the matter further

In responding to the revelations, Philippe Büttner, the collection curator of the Kunsthaus Zurich, told the Tages-Anziger that “this surprising and interesting find could at best necessitate a reassessment of the work attributed to Titian in the Kunsthaus collection." However, he said that for a final verdict to be reached, the piece in the Netherlands will need to be analysed further.

Image: / Gina Power

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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