TAIPEI, Taiwan - After a local boy accidentally punctured a centuries-old Italian painting last weekend, exhibit organizers yesterday rushed to confirm the authenticity of the piece after allegations from an Italian newspaper raised doubts over its true identity.
Exhibition organizer Sun Chi-hsuan said yesterday that the damaged painting "Flowers" (valued at SS$2.1 million) by Paolo Porpora had been authenticated by professional appraiser Andrea Rossi. Italian newspaper Il Post claimed earlier that the painting was the work of Mario Nuzzi and was completed in 1660 and is worth much less, at approximately 30,000 euros (approximately S$47,700).
Sun stated that the Italian paper had misidentified the piece using images from an online auction site, whose reliability could not be verified. The painting on the other hand, according to Sun, is supplemented with certificates confirming its authenticity.
The 17th century painting was being displayed as part of the "Face of Leonardo: Images of a Genius" exhibition at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei, when a 12-year-old local boy accidentally tripped and punctured the painting with his fist when he attempted to balance himself.
The exhibit, which also includes portraits of Leonardo da Vinci, is made up of 55 paintings which the exhibitors state are "authentic pieces … very rare and precious."
According to the Web Gallery of Art (a European database for fine art), "Flowers" is the only work by Porpora to be signed by the artist himself and was painted around 1660. Porpora, born in Naples, was a patron of the Chigi family and worked in Rome.
The restoration of the painting has been completed, with conservationists prioritizing the painting's structural integrity over the retouching of paint on damaged areas. After 12 hours of intense work, the painting has returned to the exhibit site and is on display.
Doubts about Exhibit Linger
Meanwhile, doubts were cast about the exhibit's organisation by local news host Tai Chung-jen. In an open letter to the local Apple Daily, Tai found it suspicious that an exhibition featuring more than 50 authentic paintings worth millions of dollars would not receive greater coverage in the Italian media.
Another major suspicion he highlighted was whether any firm would be willing to insure such a large concentration of prized works, and why necessary security safeguards were not in place during the exhibition.
Exhibition organizers have already stated that they will not demand that the boy or his family pay for the damage and that restoration costs and compensation to the painting's owner would be covered by insurance.