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by David Rudd

Issue: February 17, 2002





* The Vintage Collector is an occasional email newsletter, covering authentication and related topics in fine and collectable arts.  Comments, questions and submissions are welcome.





1) Salvador Dali Signature Forgery Detection 101: The Collector's Guild

2) Identifying History’s First True Color Photograph




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(The specific edition numbers and plate signature location was provided by Salvador Dali Archives, New York City).


Here is a case where you don’t have to be an art historian or autograph expert to identify a common Salvador Dali forgery.  This case involves the alteration, by the addition of a forged signature, to an authentic but inexpensive Dali etching.  As described below, this series of original prints was made in three editions, with the third commonly being altered.


Edition #1: In 1965 Salvador Dali was hired to make a series of original monotone etchings of famous Spaniards (Dali was Spanish).  The subjects were El Greco, El Cid, Velasquez, Don Quixote and Cervantes.  One hundred twenty five each of these etchings were made.  Dali autographed each in pencil on the bottom margin, below the image.  Each was also numbered at the bottom out of 125 (1/125, 2/125 ….. ).


Edition #2) Several years later, a New York City company, The Collector’s Guild, used the original printing plates to make another edition of the same prints.  One hundred fifty of each etching was made.  Each was autographed in the same way as the first edition, and hand numbered out of 150 (1/150, 2/150, etc).


Edition #3) The Collector’s Guild again used the printing plates to make made another, unlimited (lots) edition.  These prints were not numbered or signed by Dali.  No one is sure how many were made, but they are plentiful.  To distinguish these from the earlier signed editions, Dali scratched his name into the printing plate before printing, and this signature appears as part of the print.  This signature is within the printed image itself, as opposed to the hand-signatures which are below.  This type of signature is commonly called a ‘plate signature’ or ‘in the plate’ signature.  If you ever see these terms in auction, realize that the signature is part of the print and not by hand.  (Hand signed prints is a modern phenomenon, used to show that the print was artist approved and to increase value.  In the days of Albrecht Duher and Rembrant, prints rarely were hand signed).


The plate signatures appear as a scribbled ‘Dali,’ and are located on the prints as follows:


Cervantes: lower left

El Cid: upper left

El Greco: lower left

Velasquez: lower left

Don Quixote: lower right


As you might expect, the prints from the third, plate-signed edition are many times cheaper than the autographed editions.  In ways this is a good thing.  They will come with a certificate of authenticity and the average collector has a an affordable chance to own an original Dali.


The problem is that it has been too common practice for devious dealers and collectors to forge Dali’s name at the base of the third edition prints in order to raise the sell price.  This forgery can be particularly deceiving when advertised as "comes with Certificate of Authenticity from The Collector's Guild."  The COA is legitimate, but for the unsigned print only.


Luckily, it’s easy to identify these forged signatures.  According to the Albert Field, world reknown Dali expert and supervisor of Dali’s official archives, any Dali autograph (hand signature) on the ‘in the plate’ signed print is a forgery. 




While working on this newsletter in the wee hours of the afternoon, I checked out various online auction houses to find an image or two of the authentic prints, and found two of the just described forgeries.  I also found an unaltered third edition example ‘Dali SIGNED El Cid Original Etching’ that did not point out that the signature is a part of the print and not by hand.


In one of the more humorous ‘eBay moments,’ a seller was offering a hand-signed El Cid.  The print was unnumbered which gave it away in the first place, but the seller’s images only showed the bottom half of the print and he refused to provide an image of the top half.  I’m sure you can guess why he didn’t want to show the top half.


Not wishing to be unduly overcast, I found many examples of what appeared to be authentic and accurately described examples  (Described one seller, “ This print is signed in the plate.  It is not hand signed.”).



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DURATION: 1907-1940.  Popular use: 1910-30

AVAILABILITY: below average, expensive in in strong condition



The Autochrome was the first practical true color photograph.  This was not a paper photograph, but a transparent image on a pane of glass.  It was viewed by holding the photograph up to light or projecting it like a slide.  The image is usually darker than modern color photographs.  If unfaded, it has rich, delicate and often pastel-like colors.


Under magnified inspection, the image is made up of a mosaic pattern of red, green and blue grains.  If the image is projected too large, this mosaic pattern is visible.


The size ranges from about 2 inches square to 15" X 18"







That’s all, thanks for reading.


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