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  Faked sculpture—Clay work—The false Tanagras—Imitation of Renaissance work—Bas-reliefs and busts—Baked clay and stucco-duro—The Clodions—Bronzes—The importance of patina—The patina of Pompeiian bronzes and excavated bronzes—Renaissance patina and that of later times—Gilded bronzes—Marble work and its general colouring—Sculpture in wood and ivory—The Ceroplastica.

We must repeat that in sculpture also, faking borrows largely from the art of restoring. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that nearly all branches of the faker’s art turn for help to the restorer’s methods. And here again, as in painting, we are also immediately confronted by two forms of trickery; one is the creation of a modern object in imitation of the antique so as to deceive the collector, and the other the reconstruction of some fantastic piece of forgery from an inferior object, or one greatly damaged by over-restoration. To speak of over-restoration is in such cases to use a euphemism. We can offer an example showing how this over-restoration of objects is nothing but a form of faking highly flavoured with different varieties of deception. A rich American bought a marble statue some years ago representing a famous Roman empress. It was bought not only because the Roman art appealed to him but as the portrait of that particular Roman empress. As a matter of fact, the whole statue had been faked by the addition of new portions to a headless, limbless torso, which was the only genuinely antique part. We must say, however, that the new head given to the half-faked statue was extremely well done. It235 had been copied from a well-known model and except that the patina of the marble was not so perfect as might have been expected from a great master in trickery, the most experienced collector might have been deceived.

Clay work is perhaps the most popular form of plastic art among the fakers of antiques. As it has the special advantage of being made from casts of originals, it does not present any real technical difficulty, and it demands no expensive additions and may be given colour and patina with comparative ease. Of course many of these advantages are also shared by bronzes, stucco, and all productions worked from an original model in clay or any other plastic substance, such as wax, pastiline, etc.

Tanagra figurines undoubtedly hold the first place in the large class of faked clay work. There has been an uninterrupted succession of forgers in this line from the time Tanagra work first came into fashion with collectors, to the stock imitations now sold in Paris and still bought for genuine Tanagras by over-naïve collectors. The old Baron Rothschild, who had a fine collection of Tanagra figurines and no small experience as a connoisseur, used to say that when it is a question of a Tanagra one must see it excavated, and even that nowadays is hardly a guarantee of genuineness.

The imitations are generally cast from good originals, and as the clay shrinks considerably in drying and baking, the imitation is usually smaller than the original and can therefore easily be detected when confronted with a genuine piece.

Some of the more advanced imitators have somewhat obviated this difference of dimension by mechanical methods of expanding moulds, but the work in such cases is not so perfect as otherwise and what is gained on the one hand, namely, a dimension identical to that of the original, is lost on the other, as methods of taking over-sized moulds from originals are generally imperfect.

A flourishing product of the Italian market are bas-reliefs and clay busts in imitation of Renaissance work.

236 When not the work of clever artists who model direct from the clay, having studied and mastered the old style, it is the product of miserable mechanical deception aided by ability to disguise its patchwork nature, the trickery and general sleight-of-hand of the wily art of faking.

In the case of bas-reliefs they are often composed of different parts belonging to different originals, sometimes originals unknown to connoisseurs and art critics. This method has been applied to the imitation of Renaissance terra-cotta busts. A bust bought at a high figure from a Venetian antiquary many years ago and believed to be genuine Quattrocento work was afterwards discovered to have been made from the cast taken from the face of a recumbent figure on a tomb in the church of San Pietro e Paolo, to which had been added the back part of another bust, the whole finally set upon a pair of shoulders cast from another original of the period. The monument from which the face had been moulded was so high up on the wall of the church of San Pietro e Paolo that no one knew of the existence of this original and the other parts of the faked object had also been taken from little known originals. The fraud was discovered in Paris some time after the bust had entered a noted collection, a lawsuit ensued and the collector eventually recovered the money he had paid.

Italian art of the fifteenth century has produced many clay bas-reliefs, apparently from one and the same original and yet presenting slight differences, additions and modifications evidently made after the clay had left the mould but when it was still fresh. This fact has greatly incited the fancy of Italian forgers and largely contributed to the confusion of art critics and the duping of more than one collector. These bas-reliefs represent sacred subjects for the most part, and sometimes it is not merely a question of putting a rose in the Madonna’s hand or a little bird into those of the Infant Jesus, in order to lay claim to due originality, but the modifications are so radical that the whole appearance of the work is changed. It is generally done as follows. A good plaster-237mould is made from a good original, and a clay reproduction formed from this mould, which is then modified and changed while still fresh. Should the work to be divested of its original character represent, say, a Madonna and Child, the artist may proceed to alter its size by modifying the border; then, to transform the subject, he may make an addition on one side, of the heads of the ox and ass, taken of course from another original. To change the pose of the Madonna the clay is generally cut behind the head and neck with a fine wire and then the position of the head can be altered at pleasure; from being erect, for instance, it can be inclined, or vice versa. By the same method, and no small amount of skill, arms and hands can be given new attitudes, etc. The final result is a work which passes as an original among foolish art lovers who collect series.

Stucco duro imitations are produced by almost identical methods. These compositions are generally made of plaster, which hardens as it dries after being poured into a mould. When the original is to be modified a first model of clay or some other soft modelling material is indispensable, of course, and from this a mould is then taken for the casting of the stucco duro.

To colour and give a patina either to baked clay or stucco is comparatively easy. The colouring is given with tempera colours, the patina with tinted water, for which tobacco, soot, etc., may be used, applied with smoky and greasy hands. A coat of benzine in which a small quantity of wax has been dissolved is finally laid on with a brush and the whole polished with a brush or wool.

As we have said, however, fakers are especially partial to clay work. It requires little outlay, the finished work can be fired at small expense, the colouring and patina can be given “at home,” not needing the special light of a studio, etc. Not only in the case of Renaissance work has this method been the favoured one but in other types of art forgery, the eighteenth-century terra-cottas, for instance, the lovely work of Clodion, Falconnet, Marin, etc. Paris is glutted238 with imitations of Clodion’s clay groups. Some of them are sufficiently good to puzzle the best connoisseurs. As we have seen, a pseudo-Clodion sold years ago in perfect good faith by M. Du Boullay to Mme. Boiss caused a complicated lawsuit and many inconclusive discussions among art critics and connoisseurs of the calibre of Eugène Guillaume, Chapu, Millet, Carrier Belleuse, and specialists on Clodion’s work such as Thiacourt. It was finally established that the bit bearing Clodion’s name was authentic and had been inset in a group of much later date, a spurious original, but even this was not absolutely proved and simply offered as the most acceptable hypothesis. As Paul Eudel remarks, to decide the matter, “Clodion would have to raise the stone of his sepulchre and to rise from his tomb in order to supply an irrefutable solution.”

The initial process for faking antique bronzes is very similar to that used in clay and stucco forgeries. By initial process we mean, of course, the way the mould is made for casting the bronze. When the pseudo original has been modelled in clay, the form of it is naturally taken to obtain a matrix of some harder material, and from this matrix is taken the mould that is used for the cast. There is also another system of casting bronzes greatly in vogue among fakers, more especially for small objects, which is called cire perdu. It is a simplified method, consisting of modelling the object in wax, then taking its mould, which is emptied by melting the wax. The details of these two methods of casting bronze, the ordinary casting and the cire perdu process, can be found in any technical work on bronze casting and need not be repeated here.

The patina of bronzes presents a difficulty in addition to the artistic difficulties of creating a convincing pseudo-original, difficulties common to clay, stucco, and, in fact, all faked sculpture. Patina, the nobilis ærugo of Horace, is the peculiar oxidization acquired by bronze with age. For the connoisseur, the patina is not only a part of the artistic tout ensemble of a bronze object—so much so that239 there are collectors more impressed by the beauty of the patina than by the artistic value of the piece—but it is the chief indication of the authenticity of the work.

According to Pliny, great importance was attached to the nobilis ærugo by the Roman connoisseurs also, especially in the case of the famous Corinthian bronze. This metal was classified into five qualities by the Roman amateur according to five different hues or patinas depending upon the proportion of gold and silver in the alloy. Roman art lovers made a regular study of bronze patina and of the composition of the bronze of art objects. The components of this knowledge were not only gathered from the appearance of a certain bronze, but by its relative weight and the odour of the metal. That the odour of an alloy should have been made a test to judge of its component parts is very possible as the smell of bronze and brass is essentially different, and there is no reason why a practised Roman nose should not have distinguished slight differences according to the proportion of the various metals in the alloy.

One reason, apart from artistic motives, why the collector gives the patina so much consideration is, as we have said, because the patina nowadays is one of the safest guides in buying antique bronzes. Whilst the artistic qualities of certain objects may be reproduced with skill or trickery, patina of a really genuine and entirely convincing appearance is supposed to be beyond the faker&rsquo............
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