French art dealer Giuliano Ruffini, the suspected mastermind behind a major forgery scandal of old masters, was arrested in Castelnovo ne’ Monti in northern Italy on Friday. Several report that Italian local media.
The 77-year-old Frenchman, the son of Italian immigrants, has been wanted by the French police since July 2019 for “fraud, money laundering and forgery of works of art”. When the Italian judiciary recently issued an arrest warrant against him, Ruffini initially hid. But on Friday he decided to report to a police station near his home through his lawyer.
Ruffini has probably been the most talked about man in the world of the old masters for the past decade. He sold various collectors, dealers and auction houses for millions of old masters, which later turned out to be modern forgeries. The Frenchman himself has always maintained his innocence. According to him, the paintings were not forged, and the attribution to old masters was the responsibility of experts, curators and dealers who declared them authentic.
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Ruffini sold paintings attributed to old masters such as Brueghel, Van Dyck, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Gentileschi and Coorte. Most, he said, came from the collection of his late father-in-law, French industrialist André Borie. He always sold the paintings with the contractual restriction that he did not guarantee authenticity.
Take the unknown portrait of Frans Hals by Ruffini. Curators of the Louvre and the Mauritshuis had welcomed this find with jubilation in a scientific journal. Sotheby’s sold the painting to an American collector in 2011 for $11 million.
When doubts later arose about another painting by Ruffini, the auction house decided to have the painting examined in a laboratory after all. The ground layer turned out to contain twentieth-century elements. Then the bomb exploded, lawsuits poured in, and all paintings by Ruffini became the subject of investigation.