How to Forge a Michelangelo: The History and Practice of Forgery With Noah Charney - Atlas Obscura Experiences

How to Forge a Michelangelo: The History and Practice of Forgery With Noah Charney

4 sessions
$80 per person
See Dates
$80 per person
$80 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

This course has already started! However, you can still join if you’d like to (and we hope you will!). Students enrolling after the course start date and time will have access to a recording of the first session (which will be emailed to participants within 72 hours) as well as the option to attend remaining sessions live. Please select the “Join Late” ticket type to enroll after the course has begun.

In this 4-part lecture series, explore some of history's greatest forgeries and meet the fascinating artists who used their craft to fool the world.

Course Description

Lothar Malskat was so determined to gain fame through forgery that, when no one noticed his medieval frescoes were mere imitations, he sued himself. Tom Keating planted so-called time bombs in his paintings, intentional anachronisms that experts should have noticed, but didn’t. History’s most spectacular art forgers tended to be skilled artists who wanted, desperately, to be caught.

Join art crime historian Dr. Noah Charney for a close inspection of history’s greatest forgeries—and the figures behind them. We’ll explore the lives and personalities of these master imitators, how they pulled it off, and how they were caught. We’ll reveal the secrets behind strategies like the provenance trap, a common confidence trick used to pass off forged works. While we’ll tread mostly within the art world, we’ll also look at forged historical documents, literature, natural history specimens, and even rare wine. By the end of our time together, you’ll be familiar with the often-lovable, frequently ingenious, master forgers and the secrets to their craft,* and most importantly, how not to fall for the tricks they used to fool the world.

* Atlas Obscura does not actually endorse committing fraud!!!!!

Syllabus at a Glance

This course includes four total sessions, each lasting for 1.5 hours on four Tuesdays beginning March 5.

Session 1 (Tuesday, 3/5, 4–5:30 PM ET) | The World Wishes to Be Deceived, So Let It Be Deceived

 This session will introduce us to different kinds of forgeries—including the difference between forgeries and fakes—and how to spot them. We’ll also meet a few of our first master forgers. 

Session 2 (Tuesday, 3/12, 4–5:30 PM ET) | The Provenance Traps

In this session, we’ll go through the five versions of the provenance trap, and look at Eric Hebborn’s recipes for forged drawings and paintings.

Session 3 (Tuesday, 3/19, 4–5:30 PM ET) | Authenticity and Science

This class will introduce us to issues of authenticity, from cave paintings to artificial intelligence. We’ll also cover more fascinating forgers across genres—from Icilio Joni to Tom Keating. Finally, we’ll look at how science can foil forgeries.  

Session 4 (Tuesday, 3/26, 4–5:30 PM ET) | Forgery Beyond Art

From forged literature and maps to fossils, we’ll look at the world of forgery outside of art.

Between Sessions

There are no required assignments for this course. Students who are interested in learning more can check out Noah's books: The Art of Forgery and The 12-Hour Art Expert.

Pricing Options

This course is available at three ticket prices. This tiered pricing model is designed to increase access for a wider range of students as well as to support our instructors. In addition to tiered tickets, we offer a limited number of no-pay spots for students who would not otherwise be able to take this course. No-pay spots are selected via a randomized drawing two weeks before each section begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page.

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Atlas Obscura Online Courses

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Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.

About Your Instructor
Noah Charney
Noah Charney

Dr. Noah Charney is the internationally best-selling author of more than a dozen books, translated into fourteen languages, including The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art, which was nominated for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Biography, and Museum of Lost Art, which was the finalist for the 2018 Digital Book World Award. He is a professor of art history specializing in art crime, and has taught for Yale University, Brown University, American University of Rome, and University of Ljubljana. He is founder of ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art and teaches on their annual summer-long postgraduate program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. He writes regularly for dozens of major magazines and newspapers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Observer, and The Art Newspaper. His latest books on art have been published by Rowman & Littlefield and include The Devil in the Gallery: How Scandal, Shock and Rivalry Shaped the Art World, which was an Amazon #1 best-seller in its category, and in 2022 he presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary, China’s Stolen Treaures. He lives in Slovenia with his wife, children and their hairless dog, Hubert van Eyck (believe it or not), and sometimes leads Atlas Obscura trips!

What Else You Should Know

This lecture series is designed so students can participate live or watch a recording of each session, after it airs, at a time that is convenient for them. Sessions will take place live over Zoom, with dedicated Q&A segments for students to ask questions via video or chat. Within 72 hours after each session meets, students will receive access to a recording of the live session, which they can watch for up to two weeks after the course concludes.

Instructors may use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors may use this platform to post resources, discussion questions, or assignments. This platform also offers a space for students to connect with one another about course material between sessions.

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses and can share transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions, requests, or accessibility needs.

Dates and Availability

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