Looting Matters: The Corrupting Influence of Forged Antiquities
SWANSEA, Wales, Feb. 5 /PRNewswire/ — David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the corrupting influence of faked antiquities.
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has been hosting a short exhibition of Fakes and Forgeries. This was mounted with the co-operation of the Art and Antiques Unit of the Metropolitan Police. Among the objects on display was the “Amarna Princess” that was acquired by the Bolton Museum for 440,000 pounds sterling in 2003. It was sold with the “provenance” (or collecting history) of the Silverton Park collection. While there had indeed been a sale of the Silverton Park collection in 1892 — it had included Egyptian antiquities — the statue had in fact been made by a talented individual. The creator, Shaun Greenhalgh, was convicted and sent to prison in November 2007. Other items attributed to his hand have started to be recognized.
The Bolton Museum was not the first museum to be taken in by an acquisition that was too good to be true. In 1926 Sir Arthur Evans had encouraged the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge to acquire a marble “Minoan” goddess that had surfaced on the Paris market; it was reported to have been discovered at the harbour town of Knossos on Crete. The creator in this case was likely to have been the Swiss artist who had helped Evans to “create” the reconstructions of the newly excavated Bronze Age palace.
More recently the J. Paul Getty Museum acquired a large naked statue of a Greek youth, known as the “Getty Kouros”. It is reported to have been sold to the museum by a Sicilian antiquities dealer (with an office in Basel, Switzerland) for $10 million. Papers suggesting its location in the 1930s were presented. The statue started to be suspected as a possible forgery when a torso, similar in style to that of the Getty kouros, was seen in Switzerland in the hands of a rival dealer.
Forgeries have started to corrupt the corpus of Cycladic marble figures made in the Greek islands in the third millennium BCE. Some of the sculptures have been attributed to the hands of anonymous sculptors, though in the case of “The Stafford Master” some of the works seem to have been created in the period after the Second World War.
The lesson from these examples is clear. Potential acquisitions need to have carefully documented collecting histories.
SOURCE Looting Matters