Delacroix fraud warning from catalogue raisonné author

Lee Johnson advises that false documentation bearing his name is being circulated


As the author of the catalogue raisonné of the paintings of Eugène Delacroix, may I bring to the attention of your readers a type of fraudulent abuse of scholarly authority which is new to me and could, if perpetuated, cause serious damage to other specialists, as well as to collectors and dealers?

I was recently sent photocopies of two bogus letters. The first, in Italian, is addressed to me in London by one Arnoldo Poma of Breganzona, Switzerland. Dated 14 September 1998, it concerns a copy of Delacroix’s Salon painting of 1822 in the Louvre, the “Barque de Dante”, and refers to my meeting the writer in Paris on 25 August. Enclosures are listed as a colour transparency and black and white photo of the copy. This letter did not reach me and was evidently not meant to, since I was not in Paris in August 1998 and have never met a Signor Poma.

The second letter is concocted as a reply to the first. Dated 21 September 1998 and written in English, it has me acknowledging receipt of the photographs and stating that I am “quite confident” the work is from the hand of Delacroix. It bears an inaccurate version of my letterhead and a forgery of my signature.

Each document is “authenticated” with an apparently official, signed stamp of the Tribunale di Milano.

Lee Johnson, London