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Last warm and sunny Sunday while strolling through Rome’s largest, most choatic flea market, Porta Portese, the eagle-eyed Louise Fili and I spied a small booth selling, among its junk, a few mediocre pencil sketches with one notable exception. The colored pencil drawing on paper (bottom) signed “F. Depero / 1926.” Believing it was an art student’s copy, we passed it by—for about 30 seconds. Louise decided to backtrack, ask the price and haggle the young seller down by half. Apparently, he had no idea who Depero was and did not even mention his name during the minute-long negotiation. This and the other sketches were found in a basement in Rome and he was quick to point out the “mold” to prove that it was as old as he claimed.
Still suspicious that this is a copy (some of the line work is perfectly duplicated), I contacted a few experts who each referred me to Forum Auctions in London and Rome which had last year sold an almost exact duplicate (above) and presumed original. Part of the description from their website is as follows (I await word from a direct email that I sent to the contact info on the site):
Coloured pencils drawing on paper, 274×215 mm. Signed and dated ‘F. Depero / 1926’, at the bottom left. On the verso: ‘fare in carte colorate’. Colored pencils drawing on paper, 274×215 mm. Signed and dated ‘F. Depero / 1926’, on the bottom left. On the verso: ‘fare in carte colorate’. Very good conditions. Storage certificate signed by Maurizio Scudiero, head of the Fortunato Depero board archive.”Con la presente si certifica che la presente opera di Fortunato Depero: “CAMPARI Soda”, 1926, matite colorate su carta, 27,4×21,5 cm, firmato e datato in basso a sinistra: “F. Depero/1926”, al verso: “fare in carte colorate”. Rovereto, 23 Ottobre 2016″.
Although I have not been able to find an original outcome in any of the Depero documentation at my disposal, the Depero style is unmistakable (especially the Pac-man head) and Maurizio Scudiero is the leading Depero scholar. So, whatever the determination (a vintage fake or recent copy, another original version or even some curious prank) it is a fun artifact to have.