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Meetings with Remarkable Forgeries (British History)
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Boreades


In: finity and beyond
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Mick Harper wrote:
I was rather hoping for some more personal insights. It's the one area we are sorely lacking -- any actual experience of the art market.


I will have to interrogate two of my outlaws. One was a dealer in West Sussex, the other sells pottery on eBay. I will report back ASAP.

Meanwhile:

Grimshaw's accuracy and attention to realism was criticised by some of his contemporaries, with one critic claiming that his paintings appeared to ‘showed no marks of handling or brushwork’, adding that ‘not a few artists were doubtful whether they could be accepted as paintings at all’.

Given the dark sepia style, I'm wondering if the "paintings" were not really paintings, but actually some kind of hand-finished photographic technique (given the technology of the day).

Like my wonderfully realistic landscape pictures of the Wessex countryside. Photo taken, then Photoshopped to blur it a bit. Then printed on canvas paper on a wide-format Canon printer, and finally, "aged" with a plant sprayer filled with dilute instant coffee (nothing special, Nescafe granules will do).

https://www.canon.co.uk/business-printers-and-faxes/imageprograf-pro-6100/
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Hatty
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In: Berkshire
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Mick Harper wrote:
... now I come to look at it, I would have to say, best guess, hand on heart: France, nineteenth century, Ultramontane, post-Galican, Pio nono, give or take. Only my style notes, you understand, let’s get physical...



The reliquary of St Sebastian is inscribed with the date 1497 and with the names of Kastner, Duke Frederick III of Saxony, who partly paid for the commissions, and the Emperor Maximilian.

Is it normal practice to inscribe a reliquary with a date and the names of patrons? Seems typical of the 'Alfred had me made,' not to mention the 'Jarrow inscription', trick but a bit of scientific analysis should settle the matter. Although metalwork can't be dated except 'stylistically', woodwork is another matter

The base of this reliquary, elaborately decorated with pinnacles and figures in the Gothic style, contains relics associated with St Sebastian visible through a window on one side. Recent examination has revealed fragments of wood, possibly believed to be shards of the arrows that fatally pierced the saint, all wrapped in silk.

Clearly not much analysis was carried out if they've only recently noticed there are bits of silk wrapped around wood 'possibly believed to be' shards of arrows

The V & A's ownership listing is in line with its materials department's unprofessional approach

Its first known owner was the Russian Prince Petr Soltykoff, renowned for his wealth and discerning taste for medieval art. The private collector Sir Julius Wernher acquired the reliquary, probably between 1880 and 1890, to add to his own outstanding art. The reliquary joined the Museum's collections in 2001.

Sir Wernher, one of the founders of De Beers, made a fortune in diamonds

In consultation with the German art historian Wilhelm Von Bode, Wernher set about amassing a collection of extraordinary range and substance, encompassing Old Master paintings, sculpture, porcelain, and what stands as the largest private collection of Renaissance jewelry in England. He was also a generous philanthropist, and despite spending lavishly on numerous causes as well as on his collection, Wernher left a fortune of more than £11 million when he died in 1912.

Despite financial difficulties resulting in sales of family property and some of the artwork, his art collection is still 'largely intact', and stayed in the country
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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I sent this enquiry to the V & A's vaunted enquiry service

You bought this piece, I understand, back in 2002 to prevent its export to America. Can you tell me how much was paid for it? If it is confidential, a ballpark figure would do.
Much obliged Mick Harper

And two weeks later, this morning in fact, received back this

Dear Mick, Thank you for your email. I have passed on your enquiry to the Metalwork department (metalwork@vam.ac.uk), who will respond to you directly in due course. Please be aware that due to the closure of the museum, the department may take longer to reply to you and their ability to assist with your enquiry may be affected. We will aim to reply within 21 working days but currently this may not always be possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding during these unusual circumstances.

So definitely not a case of "Cooee, Madge, what did we pay for the Sebastian? Bloke here wants to know. No, he's not from the Art & Antiques Squad."

Oh yes he is.
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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One interesting thing arising that I didn't realise until this morning's Hatty debrief. Why are they sending the enquiry to

Metalwork department (metalwork@vam.ac.uk)?

I'm sure they're dab hands with metal but as far as I know they wouldn't be dab hands at knowing the price paid twenty years ago for a reliquary. If it is because the reliquary is mainly made of metal and they are in charge of all metal objects at the V & A, I would be intensely worried about the internal compartmentalising policy of our premier bits-and-pieces museum. Spitfire parts to Hittite golden hatpins, it requires a wide knowledge base.

Of course metal cannot be carbon dated, which is handy when it comes to dating metal reliquaries as the knowledge base of the metalwork department wouldn't stretch that far.
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Wile E. Coyote


In: Arizona
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Mick Harper wrote:

Love that 'lasting reasons'. As if there is any lasting reason to accept the current version! Codex Aureus's have long been a fave of ours. The Stockholm one got a write up in Forgeries on account of being twice (count 'em!) stolen by Vikings and having its giveaway cover handily removed by one lot or other. But that allowed a handy Anglo-Saxon dedication to be written in, which always increases the price and underscores the authenticity. Its probable true date (Low Countries, sixteenth century) can be gleaned from this

The manuscript remained at Canterbury until the 16th century when it travelled to Spain. In 1690 it was bought for the Swedish Royal Collection.


The manuscript was written on alternate purple and uncolored leaves. This is a funny thing about the Anglo-Saxons -- they, like the Byzantine Emperors and earlier Romans, had this thing about purple.

You need to crush about 6000 molluscs for a gram of purple dye. Presumably they only had enough for half a script. Either that, or they used imported lichens (Roccella tinctoria) from Spain (!)
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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We've never had to get into this kind of thing -- we rather burned our fingers over lapis lazuli (though we were being led up a garden path unknown to us at the time). Frankly, there hasn't been a need because the other stuff is so laughable. On the other hand this would be real smoking gun territory if stood up in court.
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Hatty
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In: Berkshire
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Mick Harper wrote:
She's At It Again Digging for Britain BBC4

Alice Roberts: Our first dig takes us to the Cotswolds, an area with a rich seam of Anglo-Saxon archaeology, and the name itself is thought to relate to an Anglo-Saxon chieftain called Codd who controlled the high land or wolds, hence Coddswolds.



aurelius wrote:
I was wondering about 'wold'/weald being close to 'wool' and it is frequently linked to Wald, wood but one of the OED etymologies is:

a. A piece of open country; a plain; in early use (with the) sometimes = ‘the plain’, the ground, the earth; in later use chiefly, an elevated tract of open country or moorland; also collect. pl. or sing. rolling uplands.


The Cotswolds are mostly sheep country and the topography fits the dictionary definition. Wold means "a piece of high, open uncultivated land or moor" yet place-name historians claim wold, or wald/weald, is an Old English term denoting a wooded area

Old English wald is a not uncommon term used in place-names and pre-Conquest charter boundary clauses. The interpretation of the term is discussed and its association with woodland, together with brief references to other woodland terms, especially British *cēto and related terms. Some early recordings of wald names appear to refer to relatively large well-wooded areas such as the Weald of south-eastern England.

I'm puzzled because etymologists insist that wood [from OE 'wudu'] has a completely unrelated origin to wold [Germanic: wald]

Some area names, like ‘Cotswold’, are not recorded until the medieval period when the meaning of ‘wold’ was beginning to change and when some such regions were becoming characterised by more open countryside; the names, however, may be much older. The term was consistently associated with upland, often in marginal areas, and it seems likely that it originally implied the presence of considerable amounts of open woodland.

'Originally implied open woodland' could apply to almost everywhere though not areas like the Cotswolds. We're told most of the land was deforested over time yet only a small number of 'wolds' managed to retain an apparent place-name connection to woodland even though they're some of the least wooded areas. On the other hand they are the most sheep-centric areas so yes, wold is more likely to be linked to 'wool' than wood(land).
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Chad


In: Ramsbottom
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Strange bunch etymologists.

When applied to place names 'wald/wold/weald' is of Anglo-Saxon origin and means 'woodland or forest' but when the exact same word crops up in personal names, it is of Norse origin and means 'rule(r) or power'.

Two closely related Germanic languages, using exactly the same word for entirely different things?

So why not, 'Cotswolds' = the area ruled by Cot?
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Mick Harper
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A much better link between wold and weald, to my mind, is 'industrial' meaning an area that has been forested/de-forested/scarred/grown over -- anything other than normal agriculture. Something like a moor (peat extraction or mining). Though I don't know what industry there was in the Cotswolds unless it was wool treatment on an industrial scale.
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Mick Harper
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Come to think of it, an agricultural society must have different words for different sorts of not-useful-for-agriculture land. We have fen and marsh and bog for the watery bits so we must have words for the dry bits. Remember, in England, there is hardly any land that is flat out useless, like mountains.

And then there is our old chum, diserts.
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