Francis Bacon

Bacon vs Bacon: Debate over the authenticity of Cristiano Ravarino's drawings goes to court

The case is particularly difficult given the scarcity of drawings by the artist

On 10 February, a Bologna court is considering whether a group of pencil or ballpoint pen drawings (right) on A4 typing paper that surfaced in 1996 are by Francis Bacon or not. They were bought by a Bologna doctor, Francesco Martani, from one Cristiano Ravarino who claims to have been given them by Bacon on one of his stays in Italy. People who knew Bacon well, such as Valerie Beston of Marlborough Gallery, not only say that these drawings are fakes but doubt Ravarino’s account of Bacon’s time in Italy. Until very recently, however, almost no drawings by Bacon were known with which a comparison could be made. This month the Tate Gallery in London has announced the acquisition of two groups of drawings by Bacon, mostly from the 1950s (above), one from the widow of Sir Stephen Spender, the other from an anonymous friend of the artist. As illustrated by the images here, there is no relationship between these two drawings. The curious situation is that the worried Italian owner, Dr Martani, turned in his drawings to the carabinieri in order for them to be investigated because he believes that if the court finds the drawings authentic, it will establish their credentials in perpetuity. An Italian novelist, Giorgio Soavi, is so taken by this debate that he is writing a mini-mystery story about these drawings

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 78 February 1998