Abstract: Etruscan Forgeries: The Arts of Profit and Deceit


Forgeries of Etruscan art have been made from at least as early as the 15thcentury.  The period between about 1850 and 1950 saw a remarkable number of Etruscan forgeries being produced…and accepted as authentic for 75 to 100 years after their creation.  Questions posed include: Why is Etruscan art especially vulnerable to forgery?  What are the motives for creating forgeries?   Why can some—but not all—forgeries be detected?  The main focus of the lecture, however, is on a pair of unpublished terracottas collected by a major American museum in 1912 and long believed to be Etruscan works from ca. 100 B.C.  The audience is introduced to these sculptures in a completely objective manner that places them in the broader context of Etruscan funerary sculpture.  This portion of the talk illustrates well the methods by which archaeologists and art historians approach works deprived of their archaeological context.  Later, after examining a series of closely related sculptures in several European museums, the audience is asked to “vote” informally on whether one, both, or neither of the sculptures—and, by implication, those in Europe too—is/are authentic.  Finally, the results of recent thermoluminescence tests provide the answer.

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