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   Speculation, financial disasters—Many collections change hands—Fakers busy for newly-enriched collectors—Voltaire plays the silent partner to art and curio dealers—Wonderful unearthings of Dr. Huber—Collectors of the time: Mme. Pompadour, Cardinal Soubise, Malesherbes and others—Interspace of the Revolution—Napoleon revives some of the speedy methods of the Romans—Italian museums and galleries plundered by his Imperial agents.

From this early period we enter that of the art sales, which, as we have already said, seem characteristic of the eighteenth century. Financial disasters and speculations disperse more than one fortune and usher new-comers into the world of finance. This is the time when masterpieces begin to change hands so rapidly. The spirit of collecting is superceded by that of commerce, and faking appears under new forms, those with no other trickery beyond what commerce with its intrigue and deceit can supply.

“All amateurs,” writes a contemporary in the Chronique Scandaleuse, “are now mixed up with brocantage (bric-à-brac). There is not a collector who does not sell or exchange (troque), either on account of unstable taste, or for the sake of gain, or to retaliate his own bad bargain upon some one greener than himself.”

Even Voltaire, between an epigram and a satire, found himself implicated in brocantage, only, more shrewd than Cicero, he saved appearances by an associate, the Abbé Moussinot, he remaining the sleeping partner.

Voltaire’s name and his banter over natural history and explanations of geological phenomena—Buffon, the author of131 a Natural History that Voltaire called “not at all natural,” was one of his victims, he having replied to Buffon’s learned hypothesis with regard to some sea-shells found on the summit of the Alps that the shells might have been lost by pilgrims on their way to Rome—recalls to our mind an eighteenth-century successful piece of faking and practical joke played on an erudite collector, Dr. Louis Huber of Würtzburg. In the year 1727 two doctors of the town prepared a surprise for Huber, a surprise by which his collection of fossils was to be enriched by some extraordinary specimens. Speculating on the enthusiasm and good faith of the learned doctor and impassioned collector, the two accomplices fabricated fossils of fantastic animals and the most impossible shells. The imitations were generally modelled in clay with the addition of a hardening substance. Incredible as it may sound, some of them represented ants and bees of the most heroic proportions, crabs of new line and shape, etc. These were carefully buried in ground of suitable character where Prof. Huber had been seen to excavate.

The rest is easily divined. What is not easy to understand, however, is the fact that after having made several of these most incredible discoveries Dr. Huber thought fit to publish a work, consisting of a hundred folios, written in Latin and issued under the auspices of Professor Béranger. The book, which was dedicated to the Bishop of Franconia, had twenty-two illustrations reproducing with extreme exactitude Dr. Louis Huber’s fantastic antediluvian find.

But this is not all. The learned Faculty of Science of Würtzburg assembled to honour Dr. Huber and the doyen of the Faculty pronounced a speech in praise of his discovery.

What followed can be easily deduced. Only his good faith saved the deceived collector from the sore experiences of a modern sham discoverer of the North Pole.

The curio world, however, still counts some good art lovers and serious collectors, such as Gersaint, Basant, whom the Duc de Choiseul used to call le marechal de Saxe de la curiosité on account of his daring and successful inroads on the art132 market, where, by the way, though no blood is shed no less strategy is needed than on the battlefield. There are other names worth quoting in this century of decadence, Gloomy and his friend Remy, painter and dealer in pictures and other curios, Julliot, Langlier, Paillet, Regnault-Delalande, Pierre Lebrun and his son, J. B. Lebrun, who married the famous artist Mlle. Vigëe, and owned the well-known Salle Lebrun, often used for celebrated sales.

Other names might be quoted, La Marquise de Pompadour, Cardinal Soubise, Girardot de Prefond, Fontette, Malesherbes, Marquis de Paulmy, etc.—then, the Revolution comes, the ancien régime disappears and with it th............
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