Art Crime pp 9-20 | Cite as

The Beltracchi Affair: A Comment and Further Reflections on the “Most Spectacular” German Art Forgery Case in Recent Times

  • Saskia Hufnagel
  • Duncan Chappell


On 27 October 2011 the four persons accused of the “most spectacular” art forgery case in German post-war history were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 21 months to 6 years.5 The accused were Wolfgang Beltracchi (61), the painter of the forged works; his wife Helene Beltracchi (53) and her sister Jeanette Spurzem (54) who helped him in various ways; and the “logistical expert”6 in the case, Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus (68).7 Considering the financial damage the forger group had caused, the embarrassment of buyers, dealers, experts and auction houses, as well as the considerable publicity the trial incurred, this seemed a remarkably mild verdict. However, observing the way in which art forgers at large appear to be dealt with by the justice systems of various countries, it could be said that the case just confirms a reoccurring pattern of lenient sentencing.8


Auction House Jail Sentence Police Investigator Chief Inspector Famous Artist 


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  1. 25.
    Gisela Friedrichsen, “Eulenspiegen oder Künstler” Der Spiegel (2011) 43, 148, 149.Google Scholar
  2. 35.
    Susanna Partsch, Tatort Kunst: Über Fälschungen, Betrüger und Betrogene, 2011.Google Scholar
  3. 37.
    See in general Jonathan Lopez, The man who made Vermeers (First Mariner Books, 2009).Google Scholar

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© Saskia Hufnagel and Duncan Chappell 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saskia Hufnagel
  • Duncan Chappell

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