Egyptian Fakes: Masterpieces that Duped the Art World and the Experts Who Uncovered Themby Jean-Jacques Fiechter

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  • Egyptian Fakes: Masterpieces that Duped the Art World and the Experts Who UncoveredThem by Jean-Jacques FiechterReview by: Nicholas WernickJournal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 130, No. 3 (July-September 2010), p. 495Published by: American Oriental SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23044983 .Accessed: 16/06/2014 12:27

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  • Brief Reviews of Books 495

    Egyptian Fakes: Masterpieces that Duped the Art World

    and the Experts Who Uncovered Them. By Jean

    Jacques Fiechter. Paris: Flammarion, 2009. Pp. 252, illus. $45.

    The subject of pharaonic art forgery is a very real

    problem for modern museums and it is curious that more

    books on the subject have not been published. It is fasci

    nating to learn of the lengths that someone would go to

    in order to sell their meretricious wares. Unfortunately, one gets the impression that the author was not pre

    pared to set out a specific agenda for this volume, since

    there is no particular structure for his analysis. Rather

    than illustrating step-by-step how forgeries have been

    exposed, we are left with historical anecdotes about the

    forgeries themselves and the ensuing correspondence. Furthermore, Fiechter does not provide this work with

    proper references: he illustrates correspondence but

    does not state the source of his information. Accord

    ingly, this book cannot be used for academic purposes. The book itself has a very peculiar layout: the pub

    lisher has opted to have the print in black while all

    images are composed in orange, sepia, or dark-brown

    tones. The result is that some of the images appear dis

    torted and not realistic, certainly a drawback in a book on forgeries. I applaud the extensive use of images, but

    the publisher has had text "flow" around images in curi

    ous ways that undermine the composition, leaving the

    reader with the impression that this book is not about

    a serious topic. The discussion of Borchardt's analysis of Egyptian

    pieces in European collections (chap. 4) is fascinating,

    demonstrating how the academic world responded to

    his claims that some prized museum pieces were fakes. In particular, the exchange between Borchardt and the

    outraged Adolphe Stoclet (a collector from Brussels) makes for very interesting reading. Fiechter also brings the forger Oxan Aslanian to the forefront of the history of pharaonic art forgery. He illustrates how Aslanian

    was responsible for a large number of forgeries and how

    they were produced. The discussion of the "Carnarvon

    Bust" is particularly noteworthy in that Fiechter relays the discovery that this remarkable piece was, indeed, a fake. The section on modern techniques for forgery detection is also very interesting and Fiechter does an

    commendable job in laying out Thomas Hoving's crite

    ria for determining if a piece is genuine. All things considered, this volume makes for a good

    read, but it cannot be utilized for any purpose other than

    entertainment.

    Nicholas Wernick

    University of Liverpool

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