20 OCTOBER 1984, Page 23


Sir: David Ekserdjian points out in his admirable review of Christopher Wright's The Art of the Forger (Books, 6 October) that this author's suspicions concerning the Fortune Teller in the Metropolitan Museum were first aroused by the word Merde which was then apparently on the canvas. But this word has a long ancestry in France dating back to Gothic times, and was used by both Rabelais and Brantome (see Edmond Huguet, Dictionnaire de la Langue Frangaise du XVJe siecle, vol 5, 1961, p.213).

It has also been employed to denote a colour, that of goose droppings. That thd artist of this particular picture (whether La Tour or one of his contemporaries) might have used the word is then a possibility.

Denys Sutton

22 Davies Street, London WI