Art Historian's Analysis:
"In comparing Catalogue Number 24 to known works by Jean-Michel Basquiat we find several well documented motifs are shared. The ghostlike figure in the upper left corner, the cityscape at the bottom of the composition, the shape of an arrow that has been partially drawn over in white paint, as well as the figure in the top hat that sits in the upper right corner are all designs that appear in Basquiat’s known paintings and drawings. Knowing Basquiat’s predilection for musical references in his work, it seems fitting to consider Catalogue Number 24 as a compilation of sorts, a “greatest hits.” In fact, as I will discuss below two of these motifs appear in Basquiat’s 1982 painting Obnoxious Liberals, currently in the collection of Eli and Edythe Broad in Los Angeles.
The white, ghost-like head that we see in the upper left corner with two circular eyes and a mouth drawn in black, appears very similar to several known renderings by Basquiat, including a white version in an Untitled painting from 1982 (see above). The central head in Basquiat’s Orange Sports Figure has a similar overall shape as the top of the head transforms into a series of three peaked forms —a fusion between the figure’s head and the crown that we see in many of Basquiat’s paintings and drawings, including Crowns (Peso Neto) and Untitled illustrated above.
Similarly, we see a figure with a cowboy hat at the center of Catalogue Number 24—another recurrent motif for Basquiat. Native Americans and Indians appear (sometimes in opposition) in works beginning in 1982, including: Untitled (Cowboys and Indians). We see other cowboy hats in the 1982 canvases Obnoxious Liberals and Future Science versus the Man as well. In all three examples we see a large-brimmed hat with a deep crease down the center of the crown; in Catalogue Number 24 and Obnoxious Liberals feathers are tucked into the hat band. In Catalogue Number 24 the figure in the cowboy appears as a combination of man and bird. In place of arms we see an armature of bat-like wings, where vertical lines run downward from the top horizontal axis. This is a common construction device in known works of Basquiat as well. For example, we see similar figures in two untitled paintings from 1982 —claws rather than feet, and with vertical lines running down from a top vertical line, which are subsequently encircled with the outlines of a wing. Knowing Basquiat’s interest in comic heroes, such as Batman, and the fact that this figure seems to hover above a cityscape (another known motif of Basquiat), it seems reasonable that with Catalogue Number 24, we have a representation of a part-bird, part-human figure, a quasi superhero.
The most striking similarity between known works of Basquiat and Catalogue Number 24 is the top-hatted figure in the upper right corner. Again, we have a clear example of a known work by Basquiat in which this figure appears. In Obnoxious Liberals, we see the same figure with a gridded mouth, hollow eyes, and top hat, who raises one clenched fist in the air. The similarities in detail include the black and white dress of the figure and even the rendering of the arm, which starts as a thin line that grows in thickness as it continues past the elbow and toward the abstracted, round fist.
Both the cowboy and the figure in a top hat that we see in Catalogue Number 24 have direct corollaries in Basquiat’s Obnoxious Liberals, and many of the other main symbols and images that populate this work —the cityscape, the ghostlike head, the figure in the lower left with vertically stacked eyes — are found in known works by the artist.
Conclusion: Given the strong correspondences of individual pictorial elements in Catalogue Number 24 with known works and the positive attribution of the signature that appears on the right side of this composition by handwriting expert Jim Blanco, it is my professional opinion that this work is consistent with the hand of Jean-Michel Basquiat and may be attributed to him." - Dr Jordana Moore Saggese
Basquiat's Colleague's Analysis:
"Compared to known works by Basquiat during this period, 1982, when the artist was in Venice, California preparing works of art for a March, 1983 exhibition held at the Gagosian Gallery, then in West Hollywood, one can see a striking use of a similar color palette in the above painting, Batman with Top Hat. This work of art employs not only the same over painting synonymous with the artist's style, but has the same exact colors used in the known work, Untitled, 1982. The darker blue, lighter blue, bright yellow, and pink paint is present in both works of art. If this subject painting, Batman with Top Hat, is indeed from the same period, it is highly probably that both paintings were completed during the preparation for the Gagosian exhibition.
Present in the painting are unmistakable icons that would not have been known to copiers of Basquiat work during this time in the young artist's oeuvre. The use of Batman the super-hero as pimp, the all seeing four eyed negro (you may have swindled me when you thought I wasn't looking, but I have two sets of eyes), the downtown buildings, perhaps suggesting the gentrification of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, with an ubiquitous graffiti artist (very possibly a portrait of Al Diaz, who at the time sported a goatee, mustache, and wore glasses) - all overseen by the presence of Abraham Lincoln, are a testament to the voice of Basquiat". - Scott Ferguson
"Similarities to known works by Jean-Michel Basquiat-- "JEAN MICHEL BASQUIAT", ghost crown head lacking pupils (cr-vol.II page 88 frame 8, page 144 frame 7, page 110 frame 3), top hat (cr-vol.I 109, 119, 136, 363), cowboy hat with feather (cr-vol.I 106 frame 4), eyes with no pupils (cr-vol.I 82, 116, 208), eyes vertical instead of horizontal (cr-vol.I 129, 224, 245; cr-vol.II page 220 frame 3), well defined teeth (cr-vol.I 224), vertical lines in wings/arms and bird type feet (cr-vol.I 132, 133), buildings with simple windows (cr-vol.I 57, 61, 191, 222, 223, 226, 227, 276, 296)."
"Numerous distinctive similarities were observed in the hand printings, monograms, symbols, markings, sketches and doodles observed in this Catalogue item #24 painting when compared to the works by Jean-Michel Basquiat as presented in the Catalogue Raisonne and in The Notebooks. Due to these similarities, Jean-Michel Basquiat is identified as the person who created this Catalogue item #24 painting. That is to say, Jean-Michel Basquiat authored the Catalogue item #24 painting."
*An "identification" is a term of art in Forensic Document Examination opinion rendering and represents the highest degree of confidence expressed by document examiners in handwriting comparisons. That is, the examiner has no reservations whatsoever, and the examiner is certain, based on evidence contained in the questioned materials, that the writer of the known material actually wrote the handwritten works in questions (ASTM - American Society of Testing and Materials - designation E 1658-08 Standard Terminology for Expressing Conclusions of Forensic Document Examiners). - James A. Blanco
Handwriting Analysis Part 2 (detailed supplement):
Findings pertaining to Catalogue item #24:
The alpha-characters of the hand printed signature were compared as to their line quality, letter forms and letter proportions to determine similarities or differences when compared to the known hand printing by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Standard handwriting comparison protocols were used as described in ASTM Standard E-2290. This guide is titled, “Standard Guide for Examination of Handwritten Items” and was developed by one of the scientific working group committees of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which has established standard protocols for all of the forensic sciences including pathology, fingerprints, DNA, firearms and tool marks, just to cite a few examples.
On page 5 of this report is a one-page comparison chart which sets up a comparison of the “JEANMICHEL BASQUIAT” signature which was cropped from the Catalogue #24 painting and positioned at the top of the page 5 comparison chart. Known signatures by Basquiat were scanned and cropped from the various reference works and positioned underneath the Catalogue #24 signature for ready comparison. On the signature chart, the numbered arrows surrounding the Catalogue #24 “JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT” signature point out similar handwriting features of the different alpha-characters when compared to the known examples of the signatures below.
Arrow number 1 points to the top of the Catalogue #24 “J” and showing the back slant of that letter. By comparing arrows number 1 around the known signatures on the chart one can observe a similar back slant.
Arrow number 2 indicates the lack of a horizontal cross-bar over the top of the “J” for both the Catalogue #24 signature as well as the known signatures.
Arrows number 3 show the similar form of the hook of the “J”.
Arrow number 4 points to the “E” in the given name of the Catalogue #24 signature. Here we see the lack of a vertical staff at the left side of the letter “E”. This leaving out of the vertical staff for “E”s as well as the inclusion of staffs for “E”s were interchangeable features used by Basquiat as observed even among the known signatures on the page 5 chart.
Arrow number 5 references the higher position of the “v” form that makes up the internal construction of the letter “M” between the two staffs. Arrows 5 among the known signatures shows the similar position of that internal construction for those “M”s as well.
Arrows number 6 indicate the proportionately wide placement of the two “H” staffs from one another.
Arrow number 7 points to the top of the “B” in the Catalogue #24 signature. Note that the top of the “B” is flat and angular on its right upper side as also can be observed in the two similar examples among the known signatures.
Arrow number 8 references the exaggerated oval for the letters “Q”.
Arrows number 9 point out the long tail of the letters “Q”.
Arrows number 10 indicate that the lowest extension of the letters “T” proceed lower than the bottoms of the letters “A” in front of them.
Although Basquiat usually signed his works on the verso, the five signatures appearing on the page 5 chart hereto (from Volumes 1 and 2 of the Catalogue Raisonné) offer examples of Jean-Michel Basquiat signing his works on the front (obverse) rather than verso. In addition to the cropped signatures appearing on the page 5 chart, additional examples of the Basquiat signature appearing on the front of his various works can be observed in Catalogue Raisonné Volume I, page 29 and on Volume I, page 75 (a cursive signature), Volume II, page 100 frame 2, and also in works on paper pages 95, 124 frame 2, 125 frame 1, and on pages 126, 127, 227 and 243.
Due to the numerous similarities in handwriting features, Jean-Michel Basquiat is identified as the author of the “JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT” signature appearing on the Catalogue #24 painting. An “identification” is a term of art in Forensic Document Examination opinion rendering and represents the highest degree of confidence expressed by document examiners in handwriting comparisons. That is, the examiner has no reservations whatsoever, and the examiner is certain that the writer of the known material actually wrote the signature in question (ASTM—American Society for Testing and Materials Designation: E 1658 – 08 Standard Terminology for Expressing Conclusions of Forensic Document Examiners).
Similarities rather than exactness
It was observed that the known signatures by Basquiat revealed a variation of writing habits when compared to one another. That is, differences were observed in the cross comparison of the known specimen signatures with one another. Such variant forms are normal among writers. When comparing the same handwritten characters written by the same person, one will observe similarities in the writing features rather than exactness since people do not repeat their normal, everyday writing with the mechanical precision of a computer printer, typewriter, or of a rubber stamp. As stated by David Ellen in his treatise on page 19, The Scientific Examination of Documents, Methods and Techniques:
“Like other writings a signature is subject to variation. No one can reproduce a signature exactly,
like a printing process, and there are commonly wide variations found in the output of one person.”
Further, Ordway Hilton states on page 159 of his book, Scientific Examination Of Questioned Documents, stated the following:
“No two samples of writing prepared by anyone are identical in every detail, since variation is an
integral part of natural writing. The amount and kind of variation differs among writers and in
its way forms an important element in the identification.”
Therefore, although distinctive handwriting features by a same person will look “similar” to one another, these similarities will not be so close as to appear exactly the same. These “differences” executed by a same writer are more appropriately called “variations” or “writing variations.” This principle can be observed by any person writing two or more of their own signatures, one right after the other. Even a casual comparison of these signatures will reveal differences. Although there is no doubt that the same person wrote the sample signatures in immediate succession, the “differences” observed in the same characters are referred to as “writing variations” and such variations demonstrate the inability of human writers to repeat their handwritings with exactness.
Consequently, any perceived differences in handwriting features between the Catalogue #24 signature when compared to the known signatures are due to normal handwriting variations by the same writer, Jean-Michel Basquiat.
ADDITIONAL SIMILARITIES IN SUPPORT OF AUTHENTICITY
OF THE CATALOGUE #24 “Batman with Top-Hat” PAINTING
In the following sets of imagery, cropped pictures from the Catalogue #24 painting under consideration are positioned to the left with comparison images to the right cropped from the known works by Jean- Michele Basquiat.
Similar usage of Top Hat
The top hat observed in the Catalogue #24 painting (lower left image) has similar occurrences in the known works of Basquiat as observed in the middle and right image examples below.
Similar usage of Cowboy hat with feather
The cowboy hat with feather observed in the Catalogue #24 painting (lower left image) has similar occurrences in the known works of Basquiat as observed in the right image below.
Similar usage of eyes with no pupils
The eyes with no pupils observed in the Catalogue #24 two images at the lower left is a recurring theme as can be observed in the three cropped images below from known paintings by Basquiat found in the Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, pages 82, 116 and 203. Additional examples of eyes with no pupils from the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat can be observed in the ghost-like heads appearing on page 10 of this report.
Eyes vertical instead of horizontal
The use of vertically positioned eyes in the lower left head figure in Catalogue #24 is another unusual theme used by Basquiat as can be observed in Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, pages 129, 224, 245 and in Volume II, page 220 frame 3.
Well defined teeth with open mouth
The well-defined teeth with open mouth is a theme observed in the works by Basquiat as seen in Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, page 224.
Caged mouth with football shape
The caged mouth in a football shape seen in Catalogue #24 (lower left image) is also observed in the known works by Basquiat as observed in the two examples below found in Catalogue Raisonné Volume I, pages 63 and 83. The caged mouth theme can be found also in Volume I, pages 69, 89, 111, 140 and numerous other places in the Catalogue Raisonné.
Comparison of “ghost-like face with crown” to other crown imagery from Catalogue Raisonné
The Venice collection Catalogue #24 ghost-head image below left is very similar to the two ghost-head images below scanned from Volume II of the Catalogue Raisonné. Note how the three-pointed crowns are integrated into the heads of the ghost-head images by Basquiat, just the same as in the Catalogue #24 image, rather than appearing as detached crowns such as observed in the two images at the far right, which demonstrate Basquiat’s classic use of the three-pointed crown. That is, the crowns are typically detached from the heads, or even stand alone in many paintings with no head.
Presence of infrequent themes such as the “ghost-like face with crown” further argues for authenticity
rather than for forgery.
The ghost-like face with crown theme was rarely used by Basquiat and therefore would not be a feature that a forger would have readily encountered while reviewing Basquiat’s vast bulk of works and consequently, would not likely had been mindful to reproduce such a rare image. Yet, even if we were to assume that a forger would have understood that the ghost-like face with crown was used by Basquiat and was rare, such a rare image would be avoided since forgers typically use common features that add to a more obvious and readily believable inference that a work is by the author being forged. The two ghostlike face with crown images from the Catalogue Raisonné were the only examples of such a ghost-like crowned head observed in all of the known works by Basquiat. If the Catalogue #24 painting was forged by a savvy forger, he would have likely reproduced the well-known recurring theme of the independent three pointed crown and other well-known recurring themes rather than the rare example of the ghosthead with crown.
In addition to all of these cited specific examples of similarities in imagery themes, the following
general observations further point out why the Catalogue #24 painting is a genuine work by
Cautious vs Natural, carefree execution
The observer can clearly see typical Basquiat carefree (non-precise) writing implement movements in the page 2 enlargement of the Venice collection painting #24. Note the erratic circles for the ghost head eyes, the highlight of extra white paint for the ghost-head’s lower jaw which exceeds past and below the dark boundary curve line for the jaw; the differences in the size and shapes of the eyes for the man in the tophat, the difference in upward extensions of the wing spines observed along the horizontal top of the wing; the imperfect rectangular shapes of the city-scape buildings and windows at the bottom of the work; the uneven density in application to the substrate of the white “gesso-like” background in the center of the painting which covers features of a previous painting, something that Basquiat would do whereas a forger would likely start with a fresh substrate. All of these examples of carefree execution are consistent with the natural and normal practices by Basquiat.
Repainting over previous works
The Catalogue #24 painting reveals portions of a previous painting which was covered over using a white paint in gesso-like fashion to prepare the substrate for the next work. In painting the new work, Basquiat shows little concern in allowing portions of the previous painting to peek through, thus becoming part of the finished overpainting. Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, pages 132 and 229 are just two examples of this practice used by Basquiat in his paintings and those two paintings are reproduced below. The red dashed rectangles show areas of a previous painting for these two works. This practice would likely not be used by a forger who would want his work to be one painting rather than a hybrid of two.
Use of wood as substrate
There are numerous paintings by Basquiat painted on wood surfaces, thus demonstrating that the use of wood for the Catalogue #24 painting is yet another similarity to practices by Basquiat which further supports the authenticity of the Catalogue #24 painting. Additional examples of Basquiat painting on wood surfaces can be found in Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, pages 13, 20, 21, 22, 27, 31, 52, 82, 83, 122, 142, 148, 192, 194, 293, 248, 250, 252, 253, 254, 255, 258, 259, 260, 261, 276, 278, 279, 284, 285, 298, 300, 301, 302, 306, 307, 308, 309, 319, 320, 321, 333 and 359. Volume II of the Catalogue Raisonné reveals additional examples of Basquiat painting on wood surfaces as seen on pages 80, 82, 84, 86, 88, 90, 92, 94, 100, 104, 108, 136, 138, 142, 146, 152, 160, 164, 176, 178, 198, 204, 206, 226, 228, 234, 242, 252, 262 and 266.
Weight of similarities
Another significant fact that supports the authenticity of the Catalogue #24 painting is the sheer volume of similarities to the established collective works by Basquiat. It is incumbent upon the expert examiner/critic, to consider the weight of the similarities present in a particular work. If only a few similarities of a piece under investigation are present, then uncertainties of authorship can linger. However, a broad assembly comprising vast numbers of similar features demonstrate that the art work under investigation is genuine.
Indeed, the Catalogue #24 painting reveals an overwhelming volume of similarities when compared to the established known works by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Given all the observed similarities detailed above, Jean-Michel Basquiat is identified as the author of the Catalogue #24 painting. That is to say, the Catalogue # 24 "Batman with Top-Hat" painting is authentic, having been painted by Jean-Michel Basquiat. - James A. Blanco