The “Greatest” Forger

Red Picture with Horses

Attributed to Heinrich Campendonk (1889 – 1957)

Forged by Wolfgang Beltracchi

Oil on canvas

About 2005

Source: dpa – picture alliance GmbH (website)

URL: (Accessed September 12, 2018. Access requires registration)

dpa – picture alliance GmbH


“So I took a zinc white from a tube, a Dutch product, but unfortunately it didn’t say that it contained a small amount of titanium white.”

(Wolfgang Beltracchi, Art Forger and Artist; in: Gorris & Röbel [2], 2012.)


In 2010, Wolfgang Beltracchi emerged as a man who, along with three accomplices, forged a vast number of paintings attributed to dozens of renowned artists and sold them for millions to auction houses, collectors and museums.


In 2006, a Maltese company bought the painting Red Picture with Horses, attributed to Heinrich Campendonk. Beltracchi’s activities came to an end when Nicholas Eastaugh, a forensic art scientist, performed an analysis of the painting and discovered traces of titanium white, which was only used from 1916 on, while the painting is dated 1914. Beltracchi later blamed a mislabeled oil color tube for this mistake. The forger was sentenced to six years in prison for 14 of his forgeries. He claims to have created more than 300 forgeries, some of which may still be part of museums, galleries and private collections worldwide.




Beltracchi, Helene and Wolfgang Beltracchi. “Der Jahrhundertfälscher: Unser Großer Betrug.” Zeit Online, January 16, 2014.


Clemenz, Manfred. “Wolfgang Beltracchi: Die Aura der Fälschung. Der Fall Wolfgang Beltracchi: Ein Lehrstück über Magie, Geld und Prestige.ˮ Brand Eins, 2014.


Dpa. “Wie man Holzwurmlöcher und Meisterwerke fälscht.ˮ Saarbrücker Zeitung, August 28, 2011.


Dpa. “Gefälschte Beltracchi-Werke im Internet veröffentlicht.ˮ Frankfurter Neue Presse, December 05, 2011.;art679,454818.


Gorris, Lothar, Sven Röbel [1]. “Spiegel-Gespräch: Geständnis eines ewigen Hippies.” Spiegel Online, March 05, 2012.


Gorris, Lothar, Sven Röbel [2]. “Spiegel Interview with Wolfgang Beltracchi: Confessions of a Genius Art Forger.” Translated into English by Christopher Sultan. Spiegel Online, March 09, 2012.


Hodges, Michael. “The Art Crime of the Century: How a Brilliant British Forensic Investigator Trapped an Audacious Forger who Conned Hollywood Star Steve Martin out of a Fortune.” Event Magazine, May 02, 2015.


O’Brien, Paraic. “Portrait of the Artist as a Conman.” Channel 4 News, April 16, 2014.


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