Sunday, December 11, 2011

Worlds of Forgeries

The painting of the lady above was once believed to be by Goya but when studied further it was found to be not by the artist but rather an 18th century portrait of a woman that was painted over with materials not available till after Goya's death. Restorers of the painting decided the painting should be left in it's current state with both portraits showing.

Many factors play a part on the art and antiquities marketplace including fakes and forgeries. In articles I have published on occasion I have referred to a museums piece as a forgery or fake it is never a personal thing but an inevitability of collecting, seeing whats not there and what should not be.

As a collector of art myself every once in a while I unfortunately add a fake to my collections and hopefully discover which are which before to much embarrassment. Inevitably the object which looked so hopeful in the store/gallery comes home and is placed in a place of pride to be admired by myself and my guests but what happens on occasion is that it is not until I walk by it a number of times that my original thrill begins to wear and those things which are not right begin to stand out and gnaw at me and my original judgment of the piece.

 No museum/gallery or personal collector can escape this fact of the life in any open collection.

In recent years the Bolton museum in the U.K. bought a forged statuette of an Amarna princess for more than L400 000 while the J. Paul Getty museum spent millions on a fake kouros. Where there is money to be made there will always be someone there to make it though even more insidious is those scholars who create fakes to make others look bad including Piltdown man.

The late Thomas Hoving on forgeries.

True when one finds out there piece is a forgery you better believe it's dead and how fast can I get rid of it.  This is one thing in a work of art but much harder to ferreted out when it is a document posing as historical. In the Salamander letter Joseph Smith the founder of Mormonism has a seer stone in which he sees the golden bible but when he goes to dig it up a Salamander appears and will not let Joseph take the bible until he shows up with his brother Alvin who unfortunately is dead and buried. There is a rumor that Joseph Smith and his family dug up Alvin to use his remains in a ceremony. The letter along with many other anti-Mormon documents were created by a forger in an attempt to discredit Joseph Smith and the Church of Later Day Saints and he earned big money on a number of his many creations of which some may still be out there perverting history. Excellent show from the Detroit Institute of Arts on fakes and forgeries I recommend all six episodes:
I have also come across the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology on forgeries in their Egyptian collection. I also found this site on fake Egyptian antiquities. Of note must be the auction prices for the real work and the fake pieces. Here is a fine list of antiquities auctions from recent years including prices realized. This site has excellent overview of forgeries.


Stuart Tyler said...

Thanks Tim, i look forward to reading this. Forgeries are something we all have to be wary of. I would hate to be one of those who spends a huge sum on an item just to be told later I have a fake. That would be just awful.

Thanks for highighting an important area,


tim said...

Thank you Stuart

As someone who is establishing an important database on Hatshepsut I hope to be of assistance to you as my first love is art not Egyptology and would not want your database to be contaminated by such forgeries.