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Forgery: Modus operandi (British History)
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Mick Harper
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And I've got my K to think about.
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Mick Harper
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"Your special K," as the Queen said to me, at the last garden party, her eyes twinkling.
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Mick Harper
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This week's installment of Faking For Fun and Profit is how to make Anglo-Saxon glassware. Here's your starter for ten



pence which is all you'd get if you offered it to a charity shop

@AlanHar45142012 Jan 18 Replying to @AshmoleanMuseum @caitlinrgreen
Well, to be honest I've seen better in my local charity shop

The Ashmolean will probably give you a bit more (ask for a million but be prepared to come down) and don't for goodness sake start worrying them with an over-elaborate provenance

Ashmolean Museum @AshmoleanMuseum
After being found in the grave of an Anglo-Saxon of noble rank right here in Oxfordshire, this bright blue bowl went missing - only to be found many years later in a house in Leicestershire where it was being used as a flower vase. See it on display in Gallery 41
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Hatty
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Date of find: 1847

This early seventh-century Anglo-Saxon bowl, probably made in Kent, was discovered in 1847 in Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire. It was found in the grave of an Anglo-Saxon of noble rank, during alterations to the Bishop of Oxford’s palace.

It's astounding that historians have managed to find Anglo-Saxon glassmaking facilities in places where no Anglo-Saxon archaeology has been found (archaeologists linked the 'Anglo-Saxon' glass furnaces to the "rebuilding of the monastery" by the devil-defeating St Dunstan).

Remains of Anglo-Saxon glass-making furnaces have been found in several areas, notably at York, Glastonbury and Kent.

It transpires that the glass bowl, and indeed Anglo-Saxon glassware generally, consists of reused Roman glass

Anglo-Saxon glass making was directly influenced by Roman practices, but the results were generally less refined. A great deal of Anglo-saxon glass was made by melting down broken Roman glass and re-working it.

http://britisharchaeology.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/highlights/cuddesdon-bowl.html
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Wile E. Coyote


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Hatty wrote:
We’ve started this new topic because it is becoming overwhelmingly clear that forgers (and faking and deliberate misattribution) reveal patterns of behaviour which are fairly easy to spot though it can take time to sort out. The obvious question is How did they get away with it?

This is quite a popular subject, and we’re not going to rehash well-documented cases, but no-one seems to take an interest in the overall modus operandi of forgeries. Certainly not academics, except again for well documented cases, who treat forgery as of marginal concern, or at best a niche area for study. Identifying suspect sources on a wider scale has ramifications that might affect whole academic subjects, even nation states. So it is little wonder that, on the whole, they’d rather not know.


I think one of my schoolboy errors regarding scripts and charters is to consistently have underestimated the role of the ancient librarian. The librarian was regarded as an apostle equipped with knowledge of all truth, he commissioned, collected and chronicled "God's Word" he was also responsible for all reading, eg which books were lent etc and which were copied, and writing including eg charters. He was responsible for the care of the books and of all of the common jobs to maintain and repair them, eg rebinding. Lastly, but most importantly, he was responsible for correcting and improving the books, to defend the faith, and refute heretics, in other words he maintained the purity of the doctrine. . It is he who must have authorised destruction of ancient works (not fires or vikings)

The ancient librarian is why there are so many corrections and forgeries.
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Mick Harper
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Certain categories of objects can be taken as 'presumed fakes' in order to investigate further. For instance, Hatty and I do this whenever the trigger phrase 'early medieval' comes up. Only academics use it (the rest of us say Dark Age or whatever) and they only use it when some more technically defining description is unavailable for some reason. That reason normally being that the fakers have left it carefully vague. Of course whatever it is may turn out to be early medieval in which case we can move swiftly on.

A trigger word that you may be less familiar with is 'gold'. Gold has many attractions for fakers:
1. It doesn't tarnish thereby obviating problems with ageing
2. It gives instant cachet to a less interesting (but now more valuable) assemblage. Schliemann was good at this.
3. It is too valuable to be lost in quantity. Has there ever been a cache (which are usually genuine) of gold coins as opposed to single finds (always suspect)?
4. Gold coins are always regarded as totemic so no surprise is expressed when Anglo-Saxons are found using five hundred year-old Roman designs or a Byzantine gold coin turns up in Norway.
5. It is (perhaps unconsciously) regarded as too expensive a medium for forgers. Actually it's just a tool-of-the-trade -- value-added and all that.
6. Above all, gold cannot be scientifically dated. (Though I think using gold mined post-1945 would have tell-tale radioactive markers so perhaps it will fall from favour. Someone might check.)

Other trigger words are invited.
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Mick Harper
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For instance, the word 'collection'. Now this has the opposite meaning in museum-speak since when they have one it almost invariably turns out that it belonged to a) a person of impeccable importance and b) was bequeathed to the museum. Both of which place the objects in the collection as beyond reproach. It is certainly not worth anybody's job shouting 'stinking fish'. Or even whispering it. Or even thinking it.

We have found different. In the first place, the very idea of a collection is deeply, deeply concerning. We all have some vague idea of a wealthy connoisseur spending his life amassing his treasures with scrupulous reverence, using both his own expertise and buying in others' expertise to make sure everything is tickety-boo. That is not the way it happens. Just for instance, there ain't that many treasures out there no matter how rich you are. Eh, Mr Getty?

More later. I have to get back to that fabulous con-man Richard Wallace, eponymous hero of the Wallace Collection.
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Hatty
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Provenance is key for authenticating objects and what safer provenance than a city buried under volcanic ash such as Herculaneum or Pompeii? Finds from Herculaneum, examined and authenticated by Johan Winckelmann, the leading expert on the art of antiquity in the eighteenth century, seem to have sparked a veritable frenzy of copies

According to Pliny the Romans had 'lost' the art of bronze making but at the Villa dei Papyri, a little outside the centre of Herculaneum, twenty-one bronze heads were found, three heads of Seneca, Plato and Scipio respectively being of the 'highest quality'. Then

The head of "Seneca" became "pseudo-Seneca" after an inscribed portrait of Seneca of a different type was found in 1813 and the early confidence with which names were first assigned to newly discovered heads has long since been abandoned. More than forty examples -- all of marble-- have now been found of the "pseudo-Seneca", making this highly popular likeness one of the greatest problems in the field of ancient portraiture

The names of other great Romans have been ascribed to the sculptures but most art historians agree the bronze head is the best likeness of 'someone'. Winckelmann himself wrote

"Seneca.... is more beautiful than the various portraits of him in marble, the best of these being in the Villa Medici. One could likewise maintain that the art of this work is inimitable in our own times even though Pliny reported that the art of working in bronze was entirely debased during the reign of Nero"

Are the Medici being accused of more than a lack of artistic taste? And did Pliny really complain that the Romans under Nero had forgotten the art of bronze making? At any rate someone making 'bad' bronzes and passing them off as antique would probably know their Pliny.

The Getty Villa, part of the Getty Museum, is a replica of the Villa dei Papiri.
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Hatty
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Not much seems to have been known about ancient painting before the Herculaneum and Pompeii digs carried out from 1750 to 1765. Then enthusiasm waned apparently. The Villa dei Papiri for example had to wait two hundred years for further excavations, perhaps encouraged or funded by Getty.

Anyway, beneath the ash hundreds of wall paintings were being found but rather than leave them in situ, the paintings were cut out of the wall and then framed.

Removing and framing them all was an impossible task and therefore small vignettes, with similar subjects painted on the same background colour, were often mounted in groups of between two to eight

Winckelmann was more interested in four specific paintings from Herculaneum

that were thought to have been cut out of the wall during antiquity and stacked for reuse

Cutting paintings out of a wall was done in the 18th century but now appears to have been an antique practice. Or only in Herculaneum perhaps.
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Mick Harper
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Getty is important for our purposes because he is arguably the last of the Great Collectors. It is now fashionable for zillionaires (even Russian nouveau zillionaires) to be somewhat modest and discriminating. This is not because zillionaires have suddenly become modest and discriminating, only that the whole world knows by now that the really groovy stuff is either in national collections or can only be acquired illicitly. Zillionaires' chief worry is that the whole world laughs at them so they just buy Cezannes and Bacons and stick them in bank vaults. Safe schmucks, as we call them.

Getty himself was somewhat in Catherine the Great's position: desirous of making an instant Bigger Splash. And he got what Catherine the Great got: a whole bunch of fakes. But not your ordinary fakes, these are the high end ones that art experts were prepared to authenticate, hand on heart, cash in pocket. That is unusual. Your everyday, common-or-garden fakes go through on the nod. Medium range i.e. significant but not inherently super-valuable fakes are the province of academics.
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Hatty
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Not surprisingly perhaps, there follows a spate of forged 'antique' wall paintings. An aristocratic French antiquarian and collector called the Comte de Caylus, was duped as Winckelmann, his German rival in the art world, relayed with appropriate schadenfreude

"I should mention that all the wall-paintings that have crossed the Alps from Italy and gone to England, France or Germany, are forgeries. The Count de Caylus has had one of these illustrated in his collection of antiquities and considers it to be an ancient painting because somebody sold it to him as a work from Herculaneum.

While he was in Rome, the margrave of Bayreuth was talked into buying several forged paintings and I have heard that similar forgeries have been sold to other German courts. They were all made in Rome by a very mediocre Venetian painter named Joseph [Giuseppe] Guerra, who died last year [1761]."

Winckelmann would in turn be duped by three fake antique paintings done by a friend, a painter called Mengs. Winckelmann had gone into raptures over them and used two of the fakes to illustrate his book on Classical art. The best known of the fakes, an 'antique' wall fresco of Jupiter and Ganymede, is in Rome in the Palazzo Barberini which houses the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica.
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Mick Harper
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Do not forget that this thread is for 'theory' not practice. Kindly draw overall conclusions rather than displaying your well known proclivity for minor German princelings. The "margrave of Bayreuth" indeed. She makes them up, I swear!
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Hatty
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Modus operandi is practice or procedure. The Herculaneum bronzes and paintings are another instance of desirable objects being mass produced, sold to collectors and displayed in their palaces and eventually in national collections.

Whether the originals in the sites can be distinguished from the replacement frescoes isn't quite clear but don't tell Wireloop.
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Mick Harper
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Another forgery trigger word is library. As Hatty just pointed out to me (I pretended I hadn't thought of it already) the very idea of an early medieval library is ridiculous. Books were so rare in, say, the eighth century, that they would likely be kept in the abbot's study (on his desk even) rather than have a room for the purpose. So why are 'libraries' always being referred to? Well -- theories are welcome -- but it is surely to introduce the idea of librarians.

You and me know that anything we keep gets lost in about twenty minutes. The things our mum kept are still around fifty years later to embarrass us whenever they are hauled out. Mothers are the family archivists. Forgers of the thirteenth century (never mind the nineteenth) have to have a mechanism to explain why eighth century manuscripts didn't get lost in twenty minutes or five hundred years or eleven hundred years. They needed history's archivists and in an age where there wouldn't have been such, they made them up.
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Mick Harper
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The Difficulties of Chronological Attribution (A continuing series)

Tweddle adds six to Steuer's list—a seventh turned out not to be the tenth-century helmet that he suggested, but rather a World War II SSK 90 Luftwaffe helmet manufactured by Siemens
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